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Does Lack of Sleep Affect Your Workout?

Does Lack of Sleep Affect Your Workout?

Consistency is a beautiful thing. Your body loves it and it is one of the benchmark habits to establishing health and wellness. Sleep profoundly affects health and wellness, as well as your workout; 8-9 hours per night is optimal, 7 hours is the low threshold. But what about those times when deadlines keep you up late, or the only flight left is a Redeye? Can you make up those lost hours over the next day or the weekend? Research increasingly re-confirms that sleep, once lost, is very hard, if not impossible to make up.

In a recent Penn State study, 30 healthy men and women aged 18 to 34 spent 13 nights in a sleep lab. After 4 nights of a full eight hours, they spent the next 6 nights sleeping only 6 hours. Finally, the last 3 nights were 10-hour sleep nights.

The participant’s brain function dropped after the nights of sleep deprivation and did not return to normal until after the third day of 10 hours of sleep, even though they said they felt refreshed after the first night of extra sleep. If you are counting on weekends to catch up on sleep, you are fooling yourself; you are just getting started!

Negative effects of sleep deprivation (even mild sleep deprivation such as 6 hours per night) include:

  • Decreased problem solving skills
  • Less innovative thinking
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased alertness
  • Inappropriate behaviors such as difficulty controlling tempers and un-ethical behavior that normally would not have been exhibited
  • More disagreements in relationships
  • Weight gain
  • Weakened immune system
  • Skin Aging
  • Less Sex
  • Serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes
  • Need more reasons? A recent study in Sweden found that subjects who did not get a full night’s sleep were consistently perceived as less attractive as when they had slept soundly through the night.
  • Less human growth hormone secreted (see below).

Habits to improve Your Sleep Habits:

  • Get regular physical exercise
  • Get outside daily; sunlight and fresh air are absolutely restorative!
  • Eat a light dinner; avoid calorie-dense foods as well as a large meal.
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Quit smoking; nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Have a consistent, relaxing, bedtime routine
  • Make sure your space is dark; do not use nightlights in the immediate sleep area.
  • Use a quality mattress
  • If you worry about getting up on time, buy a high quality alarm clock that gives you confidence. It is important that worry is not part of your nightly routine.
  • Your sleep space ideally should not be a workspace. Your mind and body subconsciously know the difference. If at all possible, have no electronics in your bedroom.
  • If you have the habit of going to sleep to the TV or other electronic noise, break the cycle.
  • If you lie awake unable to sleep, especially if you are breaking a habit such as watching TV, focus on your breath, meditate, and/or pray. It is important to not get up and reinforce the electronic habit. It may take a few days to establish the pattern of going to sleep in quiet, but it is a habit well worth the effort.


There are 5 stages of sleep. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep (sleep stages 1-4), and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, stage 5.

During sleep stages 3 and 4 the body goes through it’s most profound recovery stages. Stage 3 is the beginning of deep sleep and the stage when the body begins to release human growth hormone (HGH). Stage 4 is the deepest stage of sleep where most of the repair, rejuvenation, and regeneration take place. HGH is released during both sleep stage 3 and 4 replenishing both physical and mental energy.

As you sleep, you will cycle between the 5 stages of sleep throughout the night. If sleep is cut short, so is the regeneration/rejuvenation cycles. If you consistently get 6 hours of sleep per night, by the weekend you will have deprived your body of 10 hours of optimal sleep; more than a full night’s worth.  Additionally, you have also denied your body the full access of HGH, which over a short period of time will affect your progress, your actual workout, and your gains in both strength and endurance.

How awesome is this: to get better workout gains, all you need to do is sleep! No suffer score required! If you want to look your best, feel your best, and perform your best, get your sleep.

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