When most people first try to take advantage of the many benefits of regular exercise, they're apt to spend plenty of time thinking about the wide variety of workout options at their disposal. Some take to activities like jogging. Others prefer spin classes and aerobics. Some even take up weightlifting, believing that building muscle is the surest way to better health.
What almost none of them think about, though, are all of the things they'll need to do when they're not working out to maximize the benefits and make them stick. One of those things is making sure that they get adequate restful sleep each and every night. It's an oft-overlooked part of a fitness routine that requires careful attention, and that can cause all kinds of problems when ignored. To help solve that problem, here's an overview of how fitness and sleep are connected, and how to make sure you never neglect one in favor of another.
A Symbiotic Relationship
To begin with, it's important to understand that exercise and sleep are inextricably linked. There are studies that have demonstrated that working out in the right ways and at the right times plays a role in the quality of your sleep. Conversely, making sure to get adequate sleep is essential to the recovery phase that must follow a workout. It's during our sleep that our bodies rebuild damaged tissues and regenerate muscle. Without it, all of your post-workout soreness would never go away and would lead to irreversible physical damage from repetitive stress to bones, joints, and muscles.
All of this means, of course, that planning to get the right amount of quality sleep is just as important as planning each workout. And making that happen isn't as hard as you might think.
Begin with Comfort
The first step toward getting the right amount of much-needed sleep is to prepare your environment to allow for it. That starts with making sure to have a high-quality mattress to sleep on and a quiet, dark room to sleep in at night. Also, you'll want your bedroom to be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees while you sleep – since those temperatures signal your body to enter a resting phase. That's not all, though. You'll also need to keep the right kinds of pillows on hand for your sleeping style, including pillows to act as support if you tend to sleep on your side. Having all of these things in place should make it possible for you to sleep in a way that will help your body to regenerate and leave you feeling rested and refreshed when you get up each day.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Having the right environment to sleep in helps, but there's still plenty of ways you can short-circuit your body's need to rest. One of them has to do with when you choose to work out. There's a growing body of research that seems to indicate that the best time to get your daily workout in is early in the morning before you start your daily routine. The data shows that people who do this spend up to 75% more time in the phase of sleep that facilitates repairs to the body. And people who tend to workout late at night also seem to have the hardest time falling asleep, owing to the body's need for the time to wind down after a workout. When you add in poor late-night habits like eating, watching television, or surfing the internet, what you have is a recipe for insomnia.
The Bottom Line
So, there you have it. Armed with this information, it should be possible to design a workout routine that will promote a healthy sleep cycle and to create the right environment to support it. And the necessity of doing this can't be overstated. Just as you go to great pains to avoid skipping a workout, so too should you jealously guard your sleep time. It's the only way to make sure that all of the hard work you're doing to stay healthy and fit will pay off as it should. And while you'll always have countless ways to get the kind of workout you crave, there will always be just one way to get good quality sleep – so make sure you put as much effort into getting it as you do into building the body of your dreams.