Improve your fitness levels through adequate sleep

Why do our bodies require adequate sleep to gain optimal results from our training sessions? Let me explain… Sleep is an important part of training as it serves many dynamic functions. In regards to weight training, the two primary functions of sleep are growth (obviously) and mental alertness. In other words, while we are sleeping and dreaming, our body produces natural Growth Hormone (GH), and protein synthesis (the process of building proteins) takes place. Therefore, without adequate sleep, our bodies will fail to adapt and will not recover sufficiently from our training.
fitness and sleep
Another important consideration as to why sleep is vital for fitness enthusiasts is due to the fact that without adequate sleep and the right nutrients to repair the body, the body cannot maintain sufficient energy levels throughout the day, no matter how many stimulants are used (Crayhorn, 1996). Adequate sleep can be hard for some people to acquire and some people are burdened with disruptive sleeping patterns! It is important to find out what is causing your restless nights, because sufficient time in the gym could be, to a significant degree, squandered due to the inability of the body to recover. It is important to make a conscious effort to get quality sleep every night to help promote growth, mental alertness and all round general health which in turn will benefit your fitness related goals.


  • Supplement with Magnesium:
Magnesium is popular because it is known for its ability to reduce insomnia, but it is also known for reducing stress which can allow you to relax and in turn get a better night\’s sleep. Magnesium also aids in moving calcium out of the muscles and putting it back into the bloodstream where it can be mobilised elsewhere. Because magnesium removes calcium from the muscles, it is considered to be a natural muscle relaxer (Crayhorn, 1996).
  • Write your thoughts and ideas down before you go to bed:
Use a diary to get all your thoughts and ideas out of your head and on paper (or on your iPad) before you go to sleep! That way there is nothing on your mind while you try and get some shut eye!
  • Go to bed as early as possible and sleep until you wake up refreshed:
If you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning or if you struggle to get out of bed after hitting snooze 2 or 3 times, then this may indicate that you need more rest!  The amount of sleep you need differs from person to person and can also be affected by factors such as age and genetic makeup. However, for the majority of adults, 7–9 hours per night is the ideal amount (Hirshkowitz et al., 2015).
  • Try your best to follow a regular schedule:
The best way to stick to a regular schedule is to aim to go to sleep at the same time each night. This helps to regulate your ‘biological clock\’ and improve energy levels throughout the day.
  • Try not to consume caffeine in the afternoon:
Although caffeine can enhance focus, energy and even sporting performance to a certain degree, consuming large quantities later in the day can hinder the quality of your sleep! When caffeine is consumed late in the day, this can decrease the body\’s ability relax at night, and before bed, this is because the is stimulation the nervous system and not allowing your body to rest and repair.
  • Reduce light exposure in the evening (including blue light):
Natural sunlight or exposure to bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as night-time sleep quality and duration (Viola et al., 2008). While exposure to light during the day may be beneficial, it tends to have to opposite effect at night time. Again, this has to do with your circadian rhythm, and light exposure during the evening time can trick your brain into thinking it is still daytime. This diminishes hormones like melatonin, which assist in relaxation and getting into that deep sleep (Gooley et al., 2011). Blue light is said to be the worst in regards to light exposure at night time, which is emitted in large quantities from electronic devices like computers and smartphones (Viola et al., 2008).
  • Supplement with Melatonin:
Supplementing with melatonin is very popular these days for improved sleep patterns, falling asleep faster and also improving the quality of sleep. This is because melatonin is a vital sleep hormone that signals your brain when it is time to relax and sleep (Skocbat, Haimov and Lavie, 1998).   Disclaimer: The information provided above should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on this information, and readers should consult a qualified health practitioner on any matter relating to their health and well-being.  
Blaechle, T.R., & Earle, R., W. (1992). Weight Training: Steps to Success Third Edition. USA: Leisure Press Crayhorn, R. (1996). Robert Crayhon\’s Nutrition Made Simple. M. Evans & Company. Gooley, J., Chamberlain, K., Smith, K., Khalsa, S., Rajaratnam, S., Van Reen, E., Zeitzer, J., Czeisler, C. and Lockley, S. (2011). Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans. Endocrinology, 152(2), pp.742-742. Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., Hazen, N., Herman, J., Katz, E., Kheirandish-Gozal, L., Neubauer, D., O’Donnell, A., Ohayon, M., Peever, J., Rawding, R., Sachdeva, R., Setters, B., Vitiello, M., Ware, J. and Adams Hillard, P. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health, 1(1), pp.40-43. Skocbat, T., Haimov, I. and Lavie, P. (1998). Melatonin – the key to the gate of sleep. Annals of Medicine, 30(1), pp.109-114. Tipton KD, W. E. (2001). Exercise, protein metabolism, and muscle growth. Int J Sport Nutr Exer Metab, Viola, A., James, L., Schlangen, L. and Dijk, D. (2008). Blue-enriched white light in the workplace improves self-reported alertness, performance and sleep quality. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 34(4), pp.297-306.
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