Don’t waste all of your efforts by getting this one crucial thing wrong.
“Your future depends on your dreams, so go to sleep.” — Mesut Barazany
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.
When I was younger, I was the typical twenty-something yolo’er of life.
“You Only Live Once”, Drake said, and I was making sure that I did it right by trying to do everything I could with the time I had.
This led to me adopting a ridiculous sleep schedule of 5–6 hours every night, with me focused on either partying until the wee hours of the morning, waking up to work on some school or work-related project, or sometimes trying to do both at the same time, the double whammy, that usually resulted in getting a paltry 3–4 hours of sleep.
I was able to maintain the aforementioned lifestyle for some time. However, once I got into my 30’s, I noticed that trying to do the “double whammy” was probably in my younger days, but I could still maintain a pretty functional day with 5–6 hours.
Fast forward to my decision to quit drinking alcohol and the subsequent realization of the various health benefits that it provided me, and my mind instantly began to question what other activities had I been neglecting that needed more of my attention.
Recognizing that my sleep instantly became much better than before and that I was having much better clarity of thought and overall ability to concentrate and focus because of it, I began to research how important it actually was.
In today’s world of numerous Grant Cordone “10x” and Gary Vee’s “Crushing it” followers, we are pushed to work harder and harder all the time, with it being estimated that at least 33% of individuals do not get the daily recommended 7 plus hours of sleep each night, with me being one of them.
Not only did I find out that sleep was uber important to my mental functioning, which I assumed based on my increased ability to think and execute on a much higher level, but I was also inspired to learn sleep and fitness are invariably linked for a number of reasons.
Sleep helps you exercise better
We’ve all been there.
The alarm clock goes off and our brain is telling us that we are still so very tired and it is not time to get out of bed because we decided to stay up two hours later than our normal bedtime.
Nine times out of ten, we might listen to this voice in our brain telling us to go back to sleep, but today we decide to push through it and go to the gym instead.
However, once we get to the gym, our workout drags tremendously, as we fight through bouts of yawning between sets and reps. We are able to finish our entire workout but can’t help but to notice that we are not lifting as much as we usually do and we do one or two reps fewer than usual.
While getting too little sleep does not actually have a physical effect on one’s cardiovascular, respiratory, or anaerobic/aerobic system, in a scientific study, participants still found it much more difficult to achieve the same level of results they did when they got the recommended amount of sleep because it just “felt” harder.
If this happens every now and then, it may not be that big of a deal, but if this happens consistently, you are greatly damaging your ability to continually grow, as you need to maximize your efforts in each workout to grow each week.
Therefore, getting enough sleep is imperative to exercising with the right fervor and energy to ensure you have a solid workout and push yourself to the level you need to allow your muscles to grow and your fitness to improve.
Sleep helps you eat better
While the relationships between sleep and increased intensity at the gym may seem straightforward, the connection between the quality of sleep and quality of diet isn’t just related to you deciding to have the fourth meal because you stayed up past midnight.
Even though that surely doesn’t help, and is one of the reasons that you should not stay up later than needed.
However, the other more dangerous connection lies in a pair of neurotransmitters that are heavily influenced by the amount and quality of sleep each night.
Sleep regulates our hormones in a number of different ways, and when we get less sleep than our body needs, it throws it a bit out of wack, as it relates to maintaining the equilibrium status needed to maintain healthy regulation.
These two vital neurotransmitters that are thrown off due to lack of sleep are ghrelin and leptin, and they are both central to our appetite.
A study was conducted in which when subjects were only allowed four hours of sleep they had much higher amounts of ghrelin in their body with a much-reduced amount of leptin.
As you can imagine, this would make it much more difficult to eat the right amount of foods if one natural chemical neurotransmitter balance is a bit off.
Not only will the body desire to eat more food than usual, but it will also be unusually attracted to more calorie-dense foods than it would be had one got the recommended 7 hours of sleep — something that could ruin any fitness diet.
Sleep helps you grow better
This is probably the one that most of us have heard about if we have focused much at all on our fitness improvement.
For many athletes, when the single most important focus seems to be muscle growth and development for improved performance, the concept of sleep is probably drilled into them from day one by their coach telling them they must get enough sleep for their bodies to recover.
It has been well known for some time now that you don’t actually build muscle in the gym but are instead tearing it down through lifting heavier weights and/or doing more reps.
It is only through recovery and rest that your body actually rebuilds your muscles and allows you to become stronger over time. Earlier, we discussed how lack of sleep affects the hormone leptin and ghrelin to create an increase in appetite and a desire for the wrong foods as well.
The other hormone that is greatly affected due to lack of sleep is your growth hormone (GH).
In one scientific sleep study, it was proven that lack of sleep can greatly decrease the secretion of this important hormone during sleep, possibly not allowing individuals to properly grow to their full capacity at a young age and also inhibit our ability to grow muscles as we age.
Therefore, all the hard work and pain that you are putting yourself through to put through that last set and help your body grown can be going all to waste if you’re not giving your body the proper rest it needs to allows those muscle to repair and grow each night — a scary thought when thinking about how much that last rep could hurt.
While you may feel that you are doing everything right by working out hard each day, counting calories, and eating the right mix of macros, you could be missing out on a crucial piece of your overall fitness regimen by ignoring making high-quality sleep a top priority.
By making sleep an important part of your life and ensuring that you get the recommended 7 plus hours each night, you are maximizing your body’s ability to actually take all the great food and exercise you are giving it and truly help you perform at your best optimal level on all facets.
Therefore, don’t make sleep an afterthought of your fitness goals anymore, but rather be as maniacal about getting your 7 plus hours of sleep as you would be about any diet or workout routine.
Your body will thank you.
Your mind will thank you.
And so will your future, well-rested self.