fitness Health and Fitness

Maximize Your Workout Results with Sleep

Thursday, March 20, 2014 Samantha Kirkpatrick

It’s getting to be that time of year when we seriously hone in our diets, dust off our gym bag and develop a workout plan. With summer right around the corner, we'll soon be donning sunglasses, slipping on our flip flops and dare I say it… shorts. There are many components to achieving a healthy body and while you cannot actually sleep the fat off, you can reap the healthful benefits of a good nights rest. I’m not just talking about reduced irritability, increased focus and less stress, those are just additional bonuses— I’m talking about enhancing your performance in the gym.

As if the luxury of a good nights sleep isn’t enough incentive to hit the sheets early, here are more reasons why an eight hour slumber is imperative to achieving that summer body.

Burn Fat. Isn’t this what we all want? Well, a small controlled study examined the effects sleeping had on 10 overweight but decently healthy individuals beginning their diet. With an overall goal to loose weight, dieters slept 8.5 hours a night for two weeks and then reduced to sleeping 5.5 hours a night for another two weeks. The same amount of weight was shed during each sleep schedule (about 6.5 lbs.) However, researchers found that during sleep deprivation weeks, participants lost half as much weight in fat but twice as much in muscle.

Participants noted during their deprived sleep schedule, they felt hungry more often. Evidence supports that the lack of sleep contributed to raised levels of hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.

This evidence has perpetuated more links between sleep cycles and metabolism. Medical director of the sleep disorders center at the New York University School of Medicine, Dr. David Rapoport states that, “During some parts of sleep, such as rapid eye movement (REM), the brain's metabolism actually rises significantly.” While we can’t say that the act of sleeping substantiates as a weight loss program, we can agree with Dr. Rapoport’s statement, “When you deprive sleep, you change metabolism."

Accuracy. Being too fatigued at the gym is about as beneficial as working out while drunk. Dr. A.M. Williamson conducted a study to examine the varying effects on performance from sleep deprivation vs. alcohol consumption. Findings showed that participants’ response speeds and accuracy measures were as bad if not worse than the results from the same tests performed while intoxicated.

Build Muscle. You workout to build muscle, to get stronger. But after breaking down your muscle tissue, your body needs a little TLC. “During sleep you give your body the chance to repair, recharge, and regrow,” says wellness expert Dr. Felecia Stoler, “It’s the ideal time to replenish nutrients, and, since your body isn’t moving, it allows the muscles to repair themselves.”

Energy. This might sound a bit redundant but a solid night of sleep doesn’t just replenish neurotransmitters it also acts to conserves energy levels, keeping them low and allowing your body to rebuild the previous days work.

CAN’T SLEEP? Assuming that you want to try every alternative to prescription sleep aids, here are a few suggestions:

Tea. Caffeine-free of course. After a long day I like to unwind with a mug of Yogi brand Bedtime Tea. Among its many organic herbs, the valerian and chamomile aid in reducing nervousness and restlessness. After about half a cup, I can actually feel my muscles relax as my body reclines for a tranquil night of sleep.

No Alcohol. A glass (or two) of wine might tug on your eyelids but the quality of your overall sleep diminishes. Similar to caffeine, with alcohol consumption comes a restless sleep leaving you feeling groggy in the morning. Indulge earlier in the day and avoid coffee and alcohol right before bed.

Ambiance. Often so overlooked is the importance and power of ambiance. Think of the last time you had a massage. The room was probably pretty clean and tidy, with just the essentials: a bed, lotions, candles, and soft distant music. What you probably didn't see was a pile of laundry in the corner or an assortment of magazines and unpaid bills on the table. Apply the same concept to your bedroom and clean up the stress-evoking clutter around your room. Keep the room dark during the night and if you have a reading lamp make sure it’s a low-watt bulb or install a dimmer. 

Alarm Clock. Not the one programed in your cellphone. Buy a bona fide clock with an alarm and leave your cell out of your spa bedroom. You don’t text; check e-mails or answer calls during your massage do you? Well, give your sleep the same adulation and ditch the bright lights and distractions that interrupt your valuable REM.

- Samantha Kirkpatrick
Lifestyle & Fitness Blogger 

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