What do our brains do while we sleep?

Have you thought about going to work out, but even just the idea of stepping foot inside the gym already exhausts you? Well, you’re not alone. Between working a full-time job, ensuring your living space remains clean, maintaining relationships, spending time on hobbies and getting enough sleep, finding time to exercise is close to impossible. Getting to the gym can be a motivational nightmare at the best of times, so it makes sense that once you arrived, you’d want to maximize your output in the most efficient way to ensure that all your hard work pays off. It’s for this reason that you might want to prioritize sleep.

Not only is there a growing body of evidence that points to an inextricable relationship between physical health and adequate sleep, but so too there is evidence to support exercise has a direct effect on the quality of your sleep.

The benefits of sleep

The right amount of sleep is hard to gauge exactly. Everyone has differing sleep requirements based on the type of person they are. Genetics, the amount of activity you do during the day, your job (bartenders, for example, will have a completely different sleep pattern as they primarily work at night) and even your diet all play a part toward the quality of sleep you’re getting each night. Age also plays an important factor. Newborns, for instance, on average typically need between 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day; teenagers need between 8 and 10, whereas adults need between 7 and 8. It’s important to get the correct amount of sleep every night if you want to see improved mental and physical benefits to your health.

Physical health

The physical health benefits of sleep are undeniable. For starters, sleep cuts down the risk of developing life-threatening diseases. There are numerous studies that show a significant link between insufficient sleep and the development of health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity. In most cases, these illnesses will only become onset after years of poor sleep. However, this is not always the case. One study found that compromised sleep patterns of young individuals who worked shifts actually had their blood glucose levels altered to the point that they qualified as pre-diabetic.

Sleep will also ensure you get a better sex life. For men, in particular, an impaired sleeping schedule can lead to a lower overall level of testosterone which can have an effect on their virility. Not getting enough sleep also means, on a very basic level, that you just won’t have enough energy to have sex.

Sleeping will also keep you sharper and more aware, and this will keep you safer in the long run. As anyone who has been sleep deprived knows, being tired means your focus and attention to detail is intensely impaired. This can be extremely dangerous even in the context of seemingly harmless scenarios, such as driving a car (in fact, it’s been argued that driving while fatigued is just as bad as driving while intoxicated). Getting enough sleep and staying alert means you’ll be able to concentrate and are less likely to get into serious accidents.

Mental health

Aside from physical, sleep also infers many benefits for mental health as well. To start with, having the right amount of sleep instantly puts you in a better mood. There’s nothing worse than waking up tired with the prospect of a full day’s work ahead. You’re likely to be moody and upset and this will negatively affect how you experience the day. Sleeping allows you to regulate your emotions, ensuring that there’s a higher chance of waking up with a sunny disposition.

Sleep also affects your memory. When tired, you’re liable to be more forgetful, and this is directly correlated with impaired cognitive function. Getting a good night’s sleep ensures that your memory will be functioning at optimal levels and you’ll also be less likely to develop false memories, a phenomenon that can occur when people are severely sleep deprived.

Sleep deprivation has also been associated with a large number of mental health disorders including depression and anxiety. Having trouble sleeping is actually a symptom of depression and studies show that between 65 and 90 percent of adults with clinical depression experience at least one form of sleep deprivation. When it comes to anxiety, more than 50% of patients stricken with general anxiety disorder have experienced sleep problems. It’s a somewhat vicious cycle as sleeplessness is a symptom of anxiety and depression and also one that exacerbates the problem further.

How exercise and sleep influence each other

The benefits of exercise are myriad and seemingly endless. Everyone is aware of the gains you feel physically – this is the sense that it helps you to lose weight, gain muscle and generally have a better physique (of course this last point can be viewed subjectively depending on what your particular definition of a good physique is). However, the psychological benefits of regular and intense workouts are just as pertinent as the physical one. Improved mood, lower levels of stress and anxiety, not to mention a decreased proclivity for many lifestyle diseases such as liver failure and high blood pressure are just a few of the benefits that come with breaking a sweat on a regular basis.

Sleep and exercise share a symbiotic relationship. The more you sleep, the better rested you feel and the more energy you will have to perform well at the gym. You’ll be able to run for longer, perform more reps and build muscle more efficiently. Conversely, the more you work out, the better you’ll be able to sleep at night. This was proven in a study in which sedentary men and women in their 60s who had been diagnosed with insomnia participated in a 16-week exercise study. Those who participated slept longer and woke up less often than those who didn’t. Researchers also noticed that when the volunteers slept poorly, their workouts ended up being significantly shorter.

How to improve your sleep

If you’re someone that suffers from insomnia or sleeps poorly at night and would like to achieve more and better quality sleep to improve your workout, there are a number of different steps you can take.

Get a comfortable mattress

Considering that we spend a third of our lives on our back and asleep, having a comfortable and reliable mattress is imperative to ensure that your sleep is deep and uninterrupted. The mattress you buy should be supportive, free of allergens and ideally should regulate your body temperature. Luckily, sourcing a decent mattress isn’t the chore it used to be. Finding a good memory foam mattress can be done online, and once it’s delivered to your home, you can try it out to see if it suits you and then return it if you’re not satisfied. Having a good mattress also means that you’ll have good sleeping posture, lessening the chance of waking up with a sore or stiff back.

Tailor your sleeping space

When it comes down to it, your bedroom should be used for only two things: sleeping and sex. Everything else distracting you from these two things are extraneous and should be removed. That means TV should be watched in another room and no phones should be used before bedtime. It’s also important that you tailor your space so that it promotes favorable sleeping conditions. Get thick curtains to ensure that you’re not disturbed by external light. Maintain the temperature of your room so that it is cool but not cold. And lastly, rid your room of noises and other distractions such as loud fans. If all that is done, then you should be able to get the best 40 winks of your life.

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