Sleep and Exercise – How One Impacts The Other

Cute little red kitten sleeps on fur white blanket

We often discuss the link between exercise and how it can help you have a better night’s sleep. As we head into the summer, I wanted to flip this topic around and consider how a bad night’s sleep can affect how likely you are to prioritise exercise. We’ll also discuss some tips for sleeping through the hot nights so that you can feel as rested as possible and able to fit exercise into your day. Not only can a bad night’s sleep affect your exercise, but it also has a big impact on your diet that day.

There are various reasons for a disturbed night’s sleep, but the summer and being too warm effects most of us at this time of year. Broken sleep does not feel as refreshing as a solid block of sleep and can lead to insomnia, sleep deprivation and, therefore, daytime drowsiness. We know that lack of sleep affects our concentration, motivation and mood. We are more likely to skip a workout on a day after a poor night’s sleep, which is fine if it only happens now and then, but if that lasts the whole summer, then we can miss out on a couple of months of doing good things for our body and mind through movement.

I suffer from broken sleep, so this is a topic close to my heart and something I’ve struggled with over the years, and I’ve finally found a few solutions that work for me. Each of us will have a set of things that work for us and our lifestyle.  Below I share some ideas and things that have worked well for me:

Sleep Tips

  • Limiting screen time for an hour before bed.
  • Trying to maintain a consistent bedtime and morning alarm.
  • Blackout sleep mask and or curtains/blinds.
  • Keeping the bedroom cool.
  • Ice packs frozen ready to cool the bed down if needed.
  • Wireless headphones charged ready to listen to a podcast to prevent my mind working overtime.
  • Sleep mediation to help switch off a busy mind.
  • Watching easy entertainment in the evening – avoiding laugh-out-loud comedy or action or anything with suspense. Or reading.
  • Limiting alcohol before bed.
  • Short power nap in the day 20-30 minutes max.
  • Look into a magnesium supplement – check it is right for you before you take it.

The things that work for me personally are; a Magnesium supplement with my evening meal, an eye mask (one that doesn’t put pressure on my eyes) and a podcast or familiar audiobook (not too stimulating a story) that I can set on to a 30-minute sleep timer on my Bluetooth earphones. If I wake up in the night and I’m too warm, I try to cool the bed down and put my audiobook straight back on so that I do not have time to start thinking and try to relax.  This helps me get back to sleep within 10 minutes (usually). I’m also a big fan of a short nap!

On those poor sleep nights.

Being kind to yourself, accepting that you might be a bit slower that day and trying not to lean too heavily on caffeine and sugar is a good starting point. Adapting workouts rather than cancelling them on poor sleep days will help as the endorphins after a workout help you to feel better in the short term, and so will the sense of achievement. Half the workout duration as needed, lift lighter weights and/or do fewer sets or swap the workout for a yoga or Pilates session. Can you have a power nap? Still, try to fuel yourself with good-quality nutrients and stay hydrated.

The link between sleep and appetite.

Several hormones are responsible for sending signals to the brain that communicate hunger and fullness, which will play a key role in how much you eat.  Leptin and Ghrelin levels are affected by our sleep. Ghrelin rises, and leptin levels fall with poor quality or interrupted sleep. This may help explain why people who don’t sleep enough snack more and gain weight.  Most of us can relate to increased snacking or portion sizes after having a bad night’s sleep due to interrupted sleep or as a result of consuming more alcohol than usual. If we scale this effect up over months or even years, it can increase body fat, especially if workouts are skipped along with the increase in food consumed.

If you experience a fluctuating or growing appetite, it might be worth reviewing your sleep quality and quantity.

Sleep and the perimenopause.

Hot flushes, restless leg, low mood and changes to waking up and going to sleep patterns during perimenopause can lead to low sleep quality. These symptoms are caused by fluctuating Oestrogen and Progesterone levels as the body adapts to which glands are producing what. This phase of flux can last for around four years and if sleep is affected on and off over this time it can leave you feeling quite low. Not a fun time for us ladies or the men around us!

What other tips work for you that you could add?  If you’d like to chat more about this and how to adapt a workout when you are tired please get in touch.

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Sara McDonnell

1 Comment

  1. […] options as these two states are likely to affect concentration, co-ordination and ability. In my July blog I wrote about how sleep, or lack of it can affect our exercise and the amount of stress it puts on […]

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