Why is sleep important for fitness training?

You’re probably well aware of the importance of getting enough sleep. That’s old news! But do you know just how much a good, reinvigorating night’s sleep - along with diet -, can help with physical exercise? Well get comfortable, we’re here to break it down for you!

Why is sleep important for your fitness training routine?

Sleeping is one of life’s great pleasures, but it’s also an absolute necessity for your body – especially if you’re looking to improve your training performance.

Lack of sleep among amateur and professional athletes is associated with slower reaction times, lowered strength, impaired memory and reduced alertness. That’s a lot, yes. So, for performance nuts like us, if you’re playing team sports, you might find that your reflexes are rather sluggish and that your usual agility has taken a knock if you haven’t slept well.

Sleepless nights can also lead to poor performance during exercise and prevent your muscles from recovering as well as they normally would. Lack of sleep can reduce your immune response, which makes you more likely to fall ill. And we know you are always looking to get the most out of your workout, poor performance or illness is not on your agenda!

How much sleep do we really need?

Did you know that the average adult needs about seven to nine hours of sleep per night? Of course, this is a recommendation – but that said, everyone has their own rhythm.

If you can sleep for six hours and wake up totally refreshed the next day, then all well and good. On the other hand, if you’re one of those people who needs to squirrel yourself away and spend 10 hours a night in bed, then that’s fine, too—as long as you feel as fresh as a daisy when you wake.

Is there a link between sleep and exercise?

Surprisingly, sleep is one of the most important things that you can do to aid physical exercise. But why? If we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies don’t have time to go through all of the stages needed to regulate our metabolism, produce hormones and allow certain bodily functions to recover. So all that training can pay off if you get the right amount of snooze!

Research also indicates that sleeping well helps to lift our mood, with a positive knock-on effect for our memory and concentration. Better sleep, better mood, better concentration; now, that’s a win-win situation!

But lack of sleep doesn’t just affect our energy levels and sense of motivation; it can also impair aerobic and anaerobic performance. It might sound a bit complicated, but the key message here is actually quite simple: if you’re exhausted and not getting much sleep, working out the next day will prove counterproductive, as your body is still trying to recover. This puts you at greater risk of injuring yourself.

Sleeping well after exercise is also crucial as it helps with muscle recovery. Physical exercise stimulates the processes of synthesis and the breakdown of proteins in our muscles. But in order for muscles to grow, synthesis needs to happen at a faster pace than protein breakdown. So, what does this mean? It means that after training, sleep helps your muscles recover and build themselves up. Crucial for those of you training for more muscle mass! You can kickstart the protein recovery by grabbing a YoPRO yoghurt packed with 15g of protein and no added sugar?

What are the benefits of a good night's sleep for your workout?

Now that you’re all up to speed on the importance of proper sleep for physical exercise, let’s recap the benefits of a good night’s sleep for your training routine, based on findings from the School of Exercise Science at Adelphi University :

● It aids muscle recovery and in gaining lean mass

● It can reduce risk of injury

● It can help keep your reflexes sharp

● It gives you more get-up-and-go when it’s time to train, and can help your performance

Watch out, though: sleeping well doesn’t mean sleeping late. On the contrary, in fact: early risers can really reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Ever heard of the 5am club? Besides enjoying the cooler temperatures at that time of day, working out at 5am sets you up nicely for a busy day ahead and carves out a little bit of time just for you. Are you up for the challenge? Because we are!

And for those who can’t get enough of working out, the other advantage of this strategy is that it breaks your training into two sessions: one in the morning and another after work. Perfect if you want to get more targeted training sessions more frequently in your day.

How to sleep better at night

While sleeping well is a joy, tossing and turning in bed without being able to drop off can be a real torment. We’ve put together some tips to help you fight insomnia, straight from the Sleep Health Foundation :

● Get into a regular sleep pattern. Try go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning too. Work out what timings work best for you, then stick to them. A little routine goes a long way!

● Get as much sleep as you need. Work out how long you need to sleep in order to wake up feeling ready to face the day. Start off by experimenting with sleeping seven to eight hours. If you’re still waking up sleepy, you might need to sleep a little more or a little less, as sleeping too much can also make you feel rather tired. There are also apps that track your circadian rhythm if you want a more accurate measure.

● Your bed is a place for sleeping and resting. Electronic devices like mobile phones, tablets or laptops shouldn’t come anywhere near the sheets. Don’t sleep with the TV on, either. Your mind needs to understand that if you’re in bed, you’re there to sleep, not to be entertained. Finally, don’t lounge around in bed when you’re already wide awake. We know, it's hard. But with a little motivation it can become a habit!

● Wind down before going to bed. Deal with any issues a few hours before going to bed, and don’t start any activities that will stimulate your brain right before you try to sleep, such as going on the computer or even doing exercise . It’s better to relax, have a warm bath, enjoy a cup of tea or milk, or read a great book.

● Sleep in a comfy bed. If your mattress is giving you back pain and your pillow doesn’t lie comfortably against your head, it’s time for a change! Comfort is important for sleep quality too!

Now that you know why sleep is so important and are armed with a list to help you sleep better, it’s time to put it all into practice as part of your self-care routine. Sweet dreams!

Written by: Green Park Content

Any medical advice and views expressed are those of the author; readers should obtain medical advice.


[1] Włodarczyk, Dariusz, Piotr Jaśkowski, and Agnieszka Nowik. ‘Influence of sleep deprivation and auditory intensity on reaction time and response force.’ Perceptual and motor skills 94.3 suppl (2002): 1101-1112. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11201783_Influence_of_Sleep_Deprivation_and_Auditory_Intensity_on_Reaction_Time_and_Response_Force

[2] Hirshkowitz Max, Whiton K, Albert SM et al. Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Short Communication. Volume 1, Issue 1, P40-43, Mar 2015. Available at: https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218%2815%2900015-7/fulltext

[3] GROEN, Bart, et al. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 2012, 44.8: 1560-1569. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22330017/

[4] Health Direct, 2021. Sleep. [online] Healthdirect.gov.au. Available at: <https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sleep> [Accessed 29 November 2021].

[5] Sleep Health Foundation. Ten Tips For a Good Night’s Sleep. Available at:https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/tips-for-a-good-night-s-sleep.html


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