Everyone knows that it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, but not many people really understand why healthy sleep is so important. If you’re spending as much time in the gym as we are, you definitely want to take care to prioritize improving your sleep habits.
Here are some of the best benefits of restful, deep sleep that no one really talks about.
Why Do Humans Need To Sleep?
Sleep is an essential function of daily life that has direct benefits for both mental health and physical wellness. Humans need sleep to let the mind recharge, stave off disease, and remain healthy overall.
Without sleep, it can impair your ability to focus and concentrate, and it can also affect your workout progress. Most adults require somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Most adults do not get enough sleep, which can lead to mood swings and other negative consequences.
Humans also need more than just sleep — they need good sleep. The reason you need hours of sleep each night is so that you hit every stage of sleep, each playing a crucial role in allowing your mind and body to wake up feeling refreshed.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is one of the final sleep stages that is believed to be essential for cognitive functions like memory, learning, and creativity. You don’t hit REM sleep until you’ve been asleep for 90 minutes, so people with obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, or a poor sleep schedule often do not ever hit this essential stage.
What Are the Biggest Benefits of Meeting Your Sleep Needs?
What you do while you’re asleep is just as important as what you do when you’re awake. Here are some of the greatest health benefits of having proper sleep health.
Restoring Your Physical Health
When you work out to the point where your heart rate is up and there’s a strain on your muscles, your muscles break down and tear apart. As scary as that sounds, when they heal back up, they grow back stronger than ever before. But unlike most things in life, this process happens overnight.
Sleep allows your body to slow down and engage in the recovery process, which promotes better physical performance the next day. It lets your muscles heal and recharge so that you can hop back into the gym tomorrow with even more energy and strength than ever. Not to mention, this can help you reduce injury risk during your sessions.
Recharging Your Mind
The physical benefits of a good night’s sleep are noticeable when you wake up feeling recharged, but the mental benefits are just as important. Sleep is your power source, letting you synthesize memories throughout the different stages of sleep each night.
In fact, your brain is still super active even when you’re asleep, using this time to remove neurotoxins that might have built up while you were awake. Giving your body ample time to do this each night is important.
Reinforcing Your Immune System
Believe it or not, sleep research studies have found that sleepers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep and sleep problems can also affect how quickly you recover from a sickness.
This can have indirect effects on your workout routine. The longer you’re sick, the longer you’ll be missing out on your next CrossFit session. This can impede your progress and make it harder for you to reach your goals.
Stabilizing Your Mood
Your mood and sleep quality are closely related. Even partial sleep deprivation has been shown to make you feel more stressed, angry, sad, or mentally exhausted. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword — people who are stressed tend to have more sleep disorders and problems compared to those who don’t.
What Are the Lesser-Known Benefits of Sleep?
While most people know about those main benefits, there are some indirect ways that getting a good night’s sleep can affect your well-being.
Better Athletic Performance
Sleep allows your heart to rest and tissue to repair, which allows your body to recover after physical exertion. This lets you perform at your best each time you head into your next training session.
Exercise has important benefits on sleep, too. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, regular exercise can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes while also lowering the risk of anxiety and depression.
Fewer Aches and Pains
A lack of sleep has been related to an increase in inflammation, which can result in muscle aches and pains. This is especially true of less sleep if you exercise often. It’s actually been found that athletes who get the right amount of sleep tend to see improvements in pain sensitivity.
If you feel like you’re achy more often than not, you can try to enhance your sleep patterns by napping for upwards of twenty minutes a day or taking melatonin supplements at night to induce better sleep.
Regulated Blood Sugar
Your body experiences a cycle of changes throughout the day called circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep-wake cycle. This process regulates lots of bodily functions, including changing glucose levels. Restorative sleep has been found to lower unhealthy blood sugar levels, but a lack of sleep has been shown to increase blood sugar, especially in older adults.
Even small amounts of sleep deprivation can increase insulin resistance and enhance blood sugar levels, which are warning signs for diabetes and heart disease.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Weight maintenance is an indirect benefit of proper sleep because it is able to increase athletic performance and decrease muscle soreness. However, it might be able to affect the way you go about your diet.
One study found that individuals who increased the length of sleep duration were able to reduce their caloric intake by about 270 calories a day. Over time, this translates to nearly 26 pounds of weight loss over three years if these are maintained across that term.
If fighting obesity and improving your overall healthcare is a part of your goal, then diet, exercise, and sleep are three of the most important factors to get you where you want to be.
Get Some ZZZs Before You Hit the Gym
Besides stocking up on protein and maximizing your time during your workout, sleep might be the next most important aspect of getting the body of your dreams. Not only does a good night’s sleep physically and mentally restore your body and keep daytime sleepiness at bay, but it can work to increase your athletic performance and even maintain your weight.
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