How much sleep do you need when working out?

If you regularly work out and stick to a healthy diet, but still are seeing the results you want, then you should think about whether you are neglecting any aspects of your wellbeing. There’s an overwhelming amount of science that says that not only does physical activity help with proper sleeping, but your sleep can also greatly help with the benefit you get from your exercise.

Sleeping is one of the Four Pillars of Health

There is a popular concept called the four pillars of health:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep
  4. Relaxation.

All four need to be looked after to maintain good all-round health. In this post, we are going to concentrate on sleep; how deprivation affects our physical and mental health and how getting more of it can improve your muscle growth and other aspects of your home training. We’ll also give some tips on how to get a better night’s rest.

How much sleep do you need when working out?

What science says about the quantity of kip your body needs when you’re training or doing bodybuilding

How much sleep infographic

Does sleep help with getting in shape?

Sleeping is a restorative activity for both the body and the mind. It is the time when our body carries out essential maintenance and repair.

Sleep 100% helps with both weight loss and getting in shape. There are numerous clinical studies that have shown a direct relationship between muscle growth in people who have over 8 hours of sleep. Not only that, but researchers have also found that a decrease in muscle mass due to a lack of sleep (under 6 hours).

Did you know: If you have had a tough weightlifting session and have stressed your muscles enough to cause the microtears necessary for muscle growth, your body will carry out the majority of the healing process at night.

While our cells can and do heal during the day, there are so many other bodily functions going on that our body’s attention is split. Sleep represents an opportunity to fix the damage caused by waking life, which is why it is so important for gym performance as we need our muscles to repair so that we can train them again comfortably.

tips for better sleep

Sleep helps getting rid of toxins help you lose weight

Another important function of sleep is to give the body time to process the toxins that accumulate in our systems over the course of the day.

This includes naturally produced toxins, like stress hormones that can put your physical and mental health at risk. As well as those that we come into contact with through our environment. The body needs about 8 hours of good quality rest to do all of these tasks.

If you do not sleep enough or if lifestyle factors affect your quality of sleep, your body will not be able to do this efficiently. This will inhibit your physical performance and hold back your progression in the gym.

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How sleep can help lose weight

We have all had the experience of having a poor night’s sleep and then spending the whole of the next day craving junk food and snacking. Why is that? Basically, our bodies produce hormones at night that affect how we feel when we wake up.

If we do not sleep enough, we can be lacking in leptin. This hormone controls hunger queues.

Our bodies also process stress hormones at night. When we do not sleep properly, these hormones build up and have a negative effect on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Physically, they can cause us to hold onto visceral fat around our middle. Mentally, stress hormones inhibit the functions of other hormones that control mood and impulse control.

This can make us more likely to comfort eat. It can also make daily life feel more difficult. If this happens, taking care our ourselves by cooking nutritious meals and going to the gym can be daunting tasks.

Studies have shown that frequently missing out on sleep can contribute to weight gain.

How sleep strengthens your muscles

There is no doubt that regularly getting eight hours of good-quality sleep helps to support physical and mental wellbeing, progress in the gym, and to weight loss. However, most people who do not manage to get their rest are not ignoring their needs – quite the opposite, they often wish they could get more!

Sleep hygiene is the key to better sleep

Sleep hygiene refers to the practical steps you can take to improve the likelihood of getting 40 winks.

  1. Establish a bedtime and wake time – that you stick to every day of the week – yes, even weekends. This will train your body’s internal clock to trigger the production of sleep hormones at around the same time every day. The hours before bedtime are important, you should be winding down your day and avoiding anything that will stimulate your system.
  2. Do not eat late – at night as this activates the digestive system. Alcohol is a known disrupter of sleep too and best avoided.
  3. Avoid blue light – The blue light of your phone is another culprit as it stimulates the brain by signalling that it is the middle of the day. You can download a red light filter to ease this. Energy-saving lightbulbs often emit blue light too, so you might be better off with soft yellow bulbs (and hope that the thought of destroying the planet does not keep you awake instead).
  4. Read a book or listen to an audiobook – Reading is one of the best ways to get to sleep, or back to sleep if you’ve woken up. Enhance the effect by having a hot milky drink, having a bath or a shower before bed.
  5. Meditation – Meditating is another great way to relax before bed. (So is sex! Intimate time spent with your partner releases various hormones that promote a sense of calm and can aid sleep).

Using sleep to get more from your workouts

If your workout performance is lagging or your scales are not budging, you might be tempted to push yourself harder. If you are not sleeping enough, however, pushing yourself is not the answer.

Think about the number of hours you sleep, the quality of your sleep, and whether you can improve your bedtime routine. After all, why go for the harder gym sessions or extreme diet when you could simply rest more?

References & Further Reading

Tom Armstrong

Hey! I've been training in all kinds of places, with all kinds of equipment for the best part of 30 years. I love training with my weights at home and writing about new products and training methods online. Well, with a name like Armstrong, I would have to be into training, right?