Sleep – is it what’s stopping you getting fit?

Not getting what you hope from your exercise routine? Sleep could be the missing link. Our sleep expert explains why

Sleep is vital for health and happiness and even weight loss but what you might not have realised is that it can hamper your workout efforts too. And we’re not talking about staying in bed too late to go for that morning run…

Sleep expert Tim Pinchin from premium mattress brand Octaspring explains how putting sleep into your exercise plan could be the key to better results.

“Getting extra sleep over a few weeks has been found to improve training in four areas – speed, accuracy, mood and alertness,” Tim says. “And getting a little more can dramatically improve your success.”

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Sleep more

You may have set your alarm an hour early to get in a morning run but what you need to be doing is getting an extra hour of sleep.

“In the same way you need more calories when exercising, you need more sleep because stress and exertion is being applied to the body and it is during sleep hours that the body recovers and repairs any damage that may have occurred.”

He adds that if you’re being very active during the day but not getting enough sleep, you will find that you’ll suffer from reduced energy levels, and this will only continue to build up if you don’t take time to allow your body to rest and recover.

“You won’t have as much stamina to train at your highest level, your split-second decisions won’t be as sharp (especially in sports requiring coordination) and your more likely to get injured and be injured for longer.

Nike Matanza, a professional triathlon coach agrees.“Quality sleep is one of the most important parts of our training,” he says. “We train hard, we eat well and we need to recover as well. Bed is where recovery happens.”

Tim's top tips for putting sleep into your sport:

1. After exercise, you should aim to have a minimum of three hours rest and recovery before going to bed, especially in the summer. 

Why? Exercising raises your body temperature, and in order to get a good night’s sleep your core body temperature needs to be cooler than during the day.

The body’s temperature is actually lowered by the brain and it’s this decrease in temperature that results in sleepiness. A high body temperature keeps you alert and therefore makes it harder to sleep. Ideal sleeping temperature is between 16 and 18º C

2. If possible, you should aim to exercise first thing in the morning  before work. The hormones released will provide you with enough energy to last the day, and by the evening, you should feel tired and ready for bed. This will result in a great, undisturbed night’s sleep.

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3. Have a cool or luke warm shower after exercise, rather than a hot one, as this will help your body back to its optimum temperature. It will also signal to the brain that the work out is over and it’s time to relax.

4. After exercising and before bed, do the things that you find relax you most. For some people, this will be watching TV or reading. However, others may find this keeps their minds awake and engaged, so listening to soothing music may therefore work better. Get to know what works for you, and what helps your mind to switch off.

5. Quality sleep is essential for bodily repair, especially after training or exercise. Good quality bedding, that moulds to your body’s natural posture at the same time as supporting it firmly, can therefore make a massive difference to your bodily repair functions during this period.

At Octaspring we have a patented memory-foam spring mattress that combines the advantages and technology of both spring and traditional memory-foam mattresses, helping you sleep better and recover quicker.