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How Sleep Affects Exercise Performance

Sleep might not seem like the most obvious part of an effective training program, but it is certainly one of the most important. Getting enough quality shut-eye every night is essential to reaching our health and fitness goals and performing our best.  But how exactly do better sleeping habits contribute to better results when we’re awake?

While sleep holds many amazing benefits for the body and mind, there are three reasons in particular why you should be prioritising it for enhanced sporting performance.

Human growth hormone is released during quality sleep

Human growth hormone (HGH) plays a huge role in your body’s endocrine system, helping to regulate metabolism, growth and cell regeneration. As it so happens, as much as 75% of HGH is released into the bloodstream during periods of quality sleep, which means your hormone levels can be severely affected by sleep deprivation.

So, what does this mean for athletes? Well, first of all, when you don’t consistently get enough shut-eye each night, your body won’t have the chance to release enough HGH to do important tasks like regulate your metabolism, boost muscle growth and repair tissue.  All of which are incredibly important to an athletes success. HGH is also important for cognitive functioning, so less time spent snoozing could actually impact your ability to make those split-second decisions when on the field or in the middle of a game. While a bad night’s sleep here and there won’t ruin your results, failing to establish a healthy routine can impact your performance in both the short and long-term.

Sleep improves your immune system

The last thing any athlete wants is to fall sick during a particularly important training period or right before a competition. Naturally, improving your immune function is essential to ensuring this doesn’t happen and one very important way to do this is to get enough quality sleep.

While you’re sleeping, your immune system produces and releases proteins that target infection and inflammation. These proteins are called cytokines, and they have the important job of fighting any illness that might put your health, and training, at risk. When you put your sleep on the backburner, cytokines don’t get a chance to ward off potential illnesses, which means you’re more likely to get that cold or flu that’s going around. Since sleep is so essential to immune health, it’s important to treat get between 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to maximise the benefits.

Sleep helps your body to repair and recover from training

As you might be able to tell by now, sleep is the body’s way of repairing, recovering and rejuvenating itself. When it comes to exercise performance however, it is especially crucial to maximising your training efforts and repairing your muscles and tissues for the next day. Not getting enough sleep can result in increased soreness, tension and inflammation, which can put you at further risk of injury if you continue training with a fatigued body.

Likewise, the fitness goals you’ve been working so hard to achieve in the gym could be hindered when you don’t get the right amount of quality shut-eye. Without this important time to restore itself, your muscles won’t be able to repair and strengthen in the way they need. So, if you want to see the best results, working a good night’s sleep into your schedule is a must!

If you want to learn more tips on achieving amazing health and fitness results, check out Fuel Your Life today. Our team of dietitians create a wide range of blogs and resources to help you reach your goals.

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