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When it comes to a new fitness challenge many people channel their focus directly on exercise, healthy eating and supplements. Combine that with general demands of life; juggling the school run, work, family responsibilities, meetings and a social life, sleep can quite often get put on the back burner.

Healthy sleep habits are essential for getting the most out of your workouts and recovery. When we sleep our muscles regroup, rebuild and recover allowing us to work hard in our next session. Without adequate rest you may be training at a lower intensity than you realise or you may find your coordination, energy levels and general ability may be disrupted.

With tired muscles comes the inadequate support for bones, joints, ligaments and tendons and therefore prevents an increased risk of injury. Your quality of sleep goes beyond affecting you physically. Just one bad nights sleep can have detrimental effects on your mood, mental health and wellbeing as well as your appetite, immune system and even cardiovascular health.

How Does Sleep Impact Fitness?

Being involved in a fitness challenge can be fun, motivating but also more intense than you are used to. If you are struggling to get an adequate amount of sleep, you will see your energy levels and consequently your performance levels drop throughout the challenge. This will be especially true if you are tackling a more intense workout like the niixSWEAT HIIT challenges as these require more energy and stamina. Lack of sleep can also affect your next workout through the onset of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness and fatigue) due to the inability of your muscles to fully recover overnight as a result of an inadequate amount of shut – eye.

There are an endless amount of benefits that accompany a good nights sleep. Particularly with regards to health and fitness. Here are just a few of the most significant:

You’ll have more energy.

Those that have joined my LIVE niix classes will know that energy is essential to tackling a workout. When we sleep our bodies work overtime to maintain our general health, support our immune system, restore temperature regulation, healthy brain function whilst regulating hormone levels. These factors contribute hugely to how we feel the next day with regards to our stamina, fitness and energy levels.

Boost your mood

We all know how great we feel after a good night’s sleep. Research suggests that a quality amount of sleep does wonders for our motivation levels, positivity and optimism – all essential for completing a demanding fitness challenge!

Sleep can help you maintain a healthy weight

A sufficient amount of sleep and rest plays a huge role in balancing our hunger hormones Ghrelin and Leptin. When we do NOT get a sufficient amount of rest these hormones become imbalanced and consequently our brain struggles to translate to the rest of the body when we are hungry and when we are full. Research suggests that those who have a better night’s sleep have a firmer grasp of these hormones and consequently find it easier to maintain a healthy weight than those who are not getting the necessary hours of sleep.

While getting a good night’s sleep can seem incredibly easy for some, we are all unique and different and therefore it can be much more difficult for others. While there are of course many factors out of our control, the good news is there ARE some changes you can make to your everyday life to help improve your chances of getting a good, quality night’s sleep and improving your exercise recovery. Have a read…

Keep a regular schedule

We all know it can be tricky to stick to the same bedtime and wake up time every single day, but if you stick to a regular bedtime throughout the week and then become nocturnal over the weekend your body clock can really suffer.  Making an effort to keep a similar schedule between your weekdays and weekends can be a real helpful tool, especially come Monday morning when you are feeling bright and breezy as opposed to sluggish and tired from the weekend. This allows your circadian rhythm to adjust and adapt. You will find yourself naturally waking up at your allotted time without having to be woken by the sound of your alarm.

Take the time to wind down

It is true, bedtime routines are not just for children! Practicing what we preach and setting ourselves a solid nighttime routine can do amazing things for our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Once you have decided on a regular bedtime to stick to, try and aim to eliminate bright computer and phone screens at least one hour before bed. This will allow your mind to relax and begin to switch off so falling asleep becomes easier. Instead incorporate things like a warm bath, reading, your skincare routine and some gentle stretching into your bedtime routine to help you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on your next workout.

Limit napping

For some of us (shift workers, new mums, etc) napping is a golden tool for making up for lost sleep, however if you nap for too long it can be detrimental to your next nights sleep and recovery pattern. Aim to nap in the early afternoon and where possible keep it below half an hour so you can ensure you maximize your chances of sleeping well that night.

Regular exercise

As mentioned in my last piece with Soak and Sleep, regular exercise is essential for a solid night’s sleep. The harder your body works, the more rest it will crave and consequently the easier it will feel to get a good amount of rest. Low intensity exercise such as walking and gentle stretches can be really beneficial before you head to bed to relax your body and mind.  

Avoid caffeine

Too much caffeine, too close to bedtime is going to heavily reduce your chances of getting a restful night’s sleep due to the fact that it is a stimulant. Try where possible to avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before you plan to go to sleep. This will give you a better chance of switching off as soon as you hit the pillow!

Getting a sufficient amount of sleep is essential, especially if you are physically active and following an exercise programme. In order to maximize your recovery and results from this fitness challenge, an adequate amount of sleep combined with a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise can be the key to your success. Aim for at least 7 – 9 hours a night where possible to help you on your way to unlocking your full potential on this challenge.

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