Experts Corner

How a Lack of Quality Sleep is Ruining Your Fitness Gains

April 14, 2022   By Dane Ford
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We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is important for our overall health and well-being. But did you know that a lack of quality sleep can also take a toll on your physical fitness and performance?

Acute Sleep Debt Is Affecting Your Fitness

If you’ve been sleeping less than the amount of time that your body needs for optimal function during the past 14 day period, you’re in Acute Sleep Debt. This means that you’re not only putting your health at risk but also your fitness gains.

Acute sleep debt has been linked to a decrease in VO₂max (the maximal amount of oxygen that you can consume during exercise), as well as a decrease in muscular endurance. In other words, acute sleep debt can make you feel less fit, and make it harder for you to reach your fitness goals.

If you’re in acute sleep debt, the best way to improve your fitness is to focus on getting more quality sleep. This means sleeping for a longer period of time and making sure that the sleep you do get is deep and restful.

While acute sleep debt can hurt your fitness, it’s important to remember that this is only temporary. Once you’ve gotten back into a good sleep routine, your fitness will improve as well! So don’t let a few bad nights of sleep get in the way of your fitness goals.

The Dangers of Chronic Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation is not just an inconvenience, it can also have detrimental effects on your fitness and health. When you’re constantly deprived of proper restful slumber for years at a time – as some people in today’s “hustle culture” are prone to do – then the effects show up both mentally and physically.

One reason why being chronically sleep-deprived will affect our fitness improvements over time is that it increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that breaks down muscle tissue and inhibits protein synthesis – two things that are vital for building muscle and getting stronger. In other words, chronic sleep deprivation can sabotage your gains in the gym over the long term!

Get fit while you sleep

Sleep helps your body to recover and adapt from the stresses of exercise and training, and trying to train with no sleep will prevent you from reaping the full benefits of your workouts. One of the ways that adaptation occurs when you have good sleep is through muscle growth and repair.

During sleep, your body produces human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a vital role in repairing damaged tissue, stimulating muscle growth, and helping you to recover from exercise.

If you’re not getting enough quality sleep, then your body won’t be able to produce enough HGH and you’ll miss out on these important benefits. HGH is also responsible for regulating metabolism, so being sleep-deprived can also lead to weight gain. Because weight loss is an important goal for a lot of people, this can be a frustrating and disheartening consequence of not getting enough sleep. This means that you could help yourself to lose weight by simply putting your head to your pillow!

Being well-rested can help you to sleep better AND to exercise even more!

Physical activity and regular exercise are important for overall health and sleep quality. People who are more active report sleeping better than sedentary people, and there is some evidence that physical activity and exercise can improve your sleep.

A good night’s sleep then means that we can work out even better, and achieve greater fitness improvements – so it’s a positive feedback loop!

When to skip your workout

If you’re feeling tired, or if you’ve been sleeping poorly, then it might be a good idea to take a rest day or do a lighter workout. Exercising when we’re already fatigued can lead to injury and reduced performance.

Finding the motivation to get back on the gain train.
When we get out of rhythm – either through lack of sleep or skipping the workout that we had planned, it’s important to find the motivation to start training again, so that we can continue towards our fitness goals.

It’s also important to remember why you’re exercising in the first place. What are your fitness goals? What benefits have you noticed since starting your exercise routine? Keep these things in mind when you’re struggling to find the motivation to train.

Remember that good quality sleep will help you to exercise better, and that regular exercise can improve your sleep quality. So if you’re feeling tired, don’t push yourself too hard – get some rest instead. And when you’re ready to start training again, remind yourself of why you’re doing it and what benefits you’ve noticed so far. This will help you to stay on track and achieve your fitness goals. Sweet dreams.


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