A balanced life entails several aspects. We’ve talked about cultivating healthy habits here on Thrive Community Fitness that involved anything from becoming more physically active to forming social relationships. A balanced life is not just about physical health; it’s also about strengthening one’s mental and emotional state.
We firmly believe that sleep is essential to all three states. It is often overlooked as a key aspect in healthy living, but it is actually extremely important. The National Institute of Health explains in ‘Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency’ that sleep “plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life”. It is particularly important to active people because it is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Moreover, adequate sleep helps your body recover from the stress of, say, a 30-minute jog, or a strength and conditioning routine. Not to mention, sleep has been proven to decrease the risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and strokes.
Rest is all the more important for highly active individuals and sleep and exercise have a two-way relationship. Everyday Health pointed to a ‘Sleep Medicine’ study, indicating that being active stimulated the production of adenosine, a chemical that is known to cause drowsiness. The more you stick to a regular exercise, the less likely you’ll experience sleep deprivation. At the same time, the amount of sleep you get also impacts workout results in many ways. For one, being well rested increases energy levels, which helps one to follow through with their routine. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, causes your muscles to fatigue more easily. It’s common for people who are sleep deprived to abandon their workout because they get tired faster.
Sleep is also critical for the recovery process. Muscles take their time to repair through a process called protein synthesis. A deep slumber known as non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stimulates tissue growth and repair. This helps the body to increase in mass and adapt to harder workouts. If you’re getting enough rest and recovery, you might notice how your favorite exercises are getting easier, which should be taken as a sign to increase the intensity.
That said, we have a lot of catching up to do in terms of resting. One of the biggest myths debunked by CNN is that adults can get by with five hours sleep. This is simply not true and is an unhealthy habit that needs to be changed ASAP. On average, adults need 7-10 hours of shut-eye every night to be able to fully function and avoid the health conditions mentioned earlier. The body also won’t adapt to poor sleeping habits overtime and we now know how crucial deep sleep is to recovery!
If you need more convincing, look at how professional athletes commit to their bedtime routines. Case in point, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic remains strict with his routine, making sure he sleeps between 11pm and 7am. That gives him over seven hours of sleep every night. In his book, Serve to Win, he wrote, “I’m serious. I treat sleep with as much respect as I treat food, or my training schedule, or my rivals. It’s that important.” His meticulous approach to his health has fuelled his success on the court, as Djokovic is the second highest earning male tennis player of all time and may even surpass Federer’s record of Grand Slam titles in the future. A big part of this success has been his ability to recover after big tournaments. He's joined by athletes like Michael Phelps, Tom Brady, and Melissa Stockwell who also take sleep very seriously. Their attitude towards rest and recovery is one that we all need to adopt if we want to achieve our fitness goals.
Sleep is something that we all need to make time for. It’s still just one part of the whole equation to fitness, however. Exercise and nutrition are equally important to optimal health and fitness but that’s for another day. Stay tuned for what Thrive Community Fitness has to say about those!
Written by: Melanie Jazz