Is Sleep The Most Powerful Workout Tool?

A good night’s sleep is your secret weapon on your quest to improve or maintain your fitness and your health. Restful sleep indicates positive stress management and workout recovery. Disrupted sleep may actually slow your workout recovery as it hinders your body’s ability to repair itself.

How Sleep Helps With Workout Recovery

Restful sleep is crucial for hormone balance. Conversely, hormone balance affects sleep quality. It is kind of a chicken and egg scenario.

Sleep debt is the result of a neurotransmitter called Adenosine that builds up while we are awake but dissipates when we sleep. According to Harvard Medical School, “Adenosine is a by-product of our cells’ energy expenditure.” Too much-accumulated Adenosine results in drowsiness slowed reaction time, and people may become more accident prone.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation may increase cortisol (stress hormones). In addition, lack of sleep decreases the production and storage of glycogen and carbohydrates in the muscles. In terms of athletic performance, this means less focus, less stamina, and decreased focus during your workout. Your workout recovery might also slow.

How Sleep Affects Your Biometrics

Numerous studies indicate that sleep short duration and poor sleep quality are associated with heart disease. A WebMD article outlines several of these studies and the correlation between poor sleep and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, increased insulin resistance, increased stress and increased inflammation.

“Good-quality sleep decreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night.” – WebMD

A 2015 study found a connection between a higher Heart Rate Variability (HRV) score and the subject’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. Researchers from Salzburg, Austria and the University of California tested 29 healthy female college students. They showed the subjects a neutral film before bedtime to mitigate some of the stress from the day, then the subjects slept hooked to sleep and heart monitoring equipment. Those with a higher daytime HRV score generally fell asleep faster than those with a lower daytime HRV.

Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep

  • Exercise in the morning if possible. You get extra points if you exercise outside as exposure to natural light might help adjust your circadian rhythms.
  • Sometimes people who suffer from insomnia find they sleep better if they finish their workout at least 6 hours before bedtime. This varies by the person, so if you already sleep well you don’t need to give up your after-work gym sessions.
  • Cut down on blue light exposure before bedtime. Our biggest natural source of blue light exposure is the sun. Studies indicate it helps set our waking cycles. LED lights, computer monitors, televisions, smartphones, and tablet screens all offer extra blue light exposure. Consider unplugging from devices an hour or two before bedtime if you have trouble falling asleep.
  • Strive to increase your HRV as daytime HRV indicates how quickly people fall asleep. Of course, it is possible that people have high HRV due to restful sleep. Some tips to improve HRV include enjoying good nutrition, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking, improving or maintaining fitness and practicing stress management techniques.
  • Some people find that meditation helps them unplug, relax and sleep.
  • Try to go to bed around the same time each night and wake at the same time.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

Tracking Your Progress

When you sleep well, you wake up refreshed. The way you feel in the morning is your top indicator of sleep quality.

In addition, sleep impacts your baseline HRV score. Although sleep isn’t the only factor, an improvement in the quality and quantity of your sleep likely results in increased HRV.

In the quest for good health and fitness, sleep is essential. The balance of sleep, nutrition, and exercise helps us look and feel our best in the new year and beyond. By tracking your daily baseline HRV with your Biostrap, you have a metric that offers insight on your sleep quality and how your body is responding to your healthy lifestyle.

Sources And Resources:

High Cardiac Vagal Control Is Related To Better Subjective And Objective Sleep Quality by

Gabriela G. Werner, Brett Q. Ford, Iris B. Mauss, Manuel Schabus, Jens Blechert, and  Frank H. Wilhelm  from Biological Psychology

How Your Sleep Affects Your Heart By Christina Boufis, WebMD

Sleep, Athletic Performance, And Recovery, National Sleep Foundation

Repaying Your Sleep Debt, Harvard Medical School

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