For you couch potatoes out there, this doesn’t mean what your dreams have finally come true. What it does mean is that sleeping is one the most critical factors to a healthy lifestyle and has to be an integral part of any fitness routine. The harder the workout, the more sheep you better count. 

With our lives are getting busier and more crowded with distractions than ever, who really has time to for a full 8-hours sleep? Well, you better, or your risk a host of a nightmare like symptoms to result.

The good news is that, in true chicken and egg riddle fashion, better sleep begets more energy and better workouts, and the other way around. It doesn’t matter which comes first so long as both are part of your total fitness routine.  

Much of the early research on sleep deprivation centered on the negative mental effects, but the physical outcomes are just as important, and, unfortunately, equally depressing. A study at the University of Chicago on 18-to-27-year-olds found that a lack of sleep (4 hours or less) resulted in less efficient glucose metabolism (how the body turns glucose into energy needed for physical activity) in less than a week. It also resulted in increased levels of cortisol – a hormone related to stress. 

Sleep and Growth

While human growth hormones therapy (injections) might be all the rage, the truth is the body already produces the hormones crucial to building muscle mass, trimming fat and giving you energy. The only thing you need to get it out of you is sleep as studies show a spike in the secretion of growth hormones during deep sleep. That means getting the right amount of sleep will prolong your vitality into your 30s, 40s and beyond. 

Is there such a thing as too much sleep?

With so much good coming from sleepy time, you could be tempted to visit dreamland as much as possible. Especially since a study at Stanford University found that athletic performance improved for those who got extra sleep, compared to their natural sleep patterns. Basketball players were monitored and those who got extra ZZZs improved their shooting percentage and sprint times. 

But that doesn’t mean that gorging on sleep when you have a chance will make up for lack of sleep at other times. There’s something called sleep debt – the difference between what you should be sleeping and what you actually are -- and it can’t be paid all at once. That means if you are not consistently getting enough sleep during the week, you can’t make up for it with a 15-hour sleep binge on the weekend. According to Harvard sleep experts, you should get in extra long sleep on the weekend (3-4 additional hours) and then put an additional 2 hours of sleep the following weekdays until the debt is paid in full.  

For everything you ever wanted to know about sleep and exercise, check out the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 Sleep in America Poll focused on Exercise and Sleep