Why Everyday Athletes Need Sleep for Better Workouts
Six sleep-boosting steps that can make your workouts more effective.
It’s true: Quality sleep can make or break an athlete’s performance. Whether you’re tackling an event like a marathon or simply want to exercise more consistently, it all starts and ends with your shut-eye.
We have compiled six sleep-boosting steps that can make your workout challenge easier. But first, let’s have a look at why sleep is so important.
The Negative Impacts of Too Little Sleep
Think about the last time you didn’t get enough sleep. Did you feel it the next day?
Cutting yourself short on sleep has a number of short-term effects. You may notice decreased alertness, impaired memory, increased stress levels, worse overall performance and a higher risk of injury.
Maybe it made you skip a workout, or maybe it made you forget simple tasks for your job.
It’s not just the short-term impact, though. Over time, poor quality of sleep can lead to serious health concerns, including a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, cancer, stroke and more.
Still not convinced? Sleep problems can alter your physical appearance, too. Dark circles under the eyes, excessive wrinkling and rougher skin can all be linked back to a chronic lack of sleep.
Those long-term effects will be less of a worry if you focus on sleep now. Between quicker reaction time, fewer mistakes and a lower chance of injury, it’s clear getting quality sleep every night will make your workouts more effective. So how can you make sure it happens?
Set Goals for Your Health and Wellness
By setting goals for your health and well-being, you’re committing to take action. Keep the goals tangible, too. It’s easy to say we’ll sleep longer or exercise more. Because those goals are less concrete, we’re less likely to follow through on them.
Effective goals follow the S.M.A.R.T. model. They’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Once you’ve determined your main goal, break it out into smaller objectives to reach your accomplishment.
For example, if running a mile sounds like a nightmare, start by walking 15 minutes one day. The next day, set a goal to walk for 14 minutes and run for one. The following day, walk for 13 minutes and run for two, and so on. After two weeks, you’ll knock out that mile in style.
Not sure where to begin with a workout at home? Here are five activities you can do without leaving your bed. Bonus: By boosting your muscle mass at the start of the day, you’ll sleep more soundly at night.
Take Notes From the Pros
Professional athletes always have to be at the top of their game. Even if we’re not playing in a Super Bowl or World Series, we can look to them for some pointers.
For example, star baseball players have said that they up their sleep game by using blackout blinds and keeping technology away from the bed. Basketball pros have pointed out that they ensure their room temperature is cool, which is conducive to better sleep. Some pro athletes have found relaxation apps helpful in catching more quality zzz’s, too.
Meanwhile, NFL athletes are better tracking their sleeping habits with Sleep Number 360® smart beds with SleepIQ® technology. They can monitor things like restful sleep and heart and breathing rate so they have a better sense of what’s going on while they’re not awake. They use this information to help with training and recovery to improve their energy, recovery and immunity.
In general, athletes are more in tune with their body and often develop a sleep routine throughout the season. Once they find their groove, they may not even need an alarm clock. They simply wake up with a refreshed body and mind.
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to aim for this. Your body typically won’t lie to you. When it’s gotten enough rest, it’ll respond positively. When you short it on sleep, your body will make you suffer the consequences.
Start a Schedule
Pro athletes receive their schedules at the start of every season. They prepare their workouts and sleep habits accordingly. This is great inspiration for everyday athletes, too. Look at your schedule for the coming week. Is there anything that would stop you from going to bed at the same time every night?
Perhaps you have a friend’s birthday coming up. That means moving a workout to the morning or scheduling a longer workout the day after.
Sleep Number SleepIQ® sleepers who say they exercise regularly are the most restful overall, have the highest SleepIQ® score, and the lowest average heart rate and breath rate compared to those who exercise occasionally or rarely.*
And, pay attention to the time of day you work out and observe if it’s impacting your sleep that night. Sleep Number SleepIQ® sleepers who say they exercise in the afternoon receive the most restful sleep, compared to those who exercise at other times.
To take it a step further, build a consistent nightly routine. For example, turn off the TV one hour before bed, write down tasks for the next day or meditate for ten minutes. To help, Sleep Number® created a completely free Sleep30® Challenge where 82% of participants experience better quality sleep and 74% improve or change a poor sleep habit. What have you got to lose?
Shine Some Light
Get outside and enjoy some sun. According to studies, exposure to sunlight increases both length and quality of sleep. On a nice day, why not take your workout to the backyard, driveway or patio?
On average, every one hour spent outdoors advances your sleep by approximately 30 minutes. Spending a half hour in the sun during the day means going to bed 15 minutes earlier. That extra 15 minutes could make all the difference for your workout tomorrow.
Watch Your Diet
Go to bed too hungry or too full and you may have trouble falling asleep. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol can also disrupt sleep, according to Mayo Clinic. Limit these substances during the day and avoid consuming them close to bedtime. Here’s a helpful article from the wellness experts at Sleep Number® with 5 foods to avoid and 5 to try instead before bed.
Workouts are no different. Overeat before one and you’ll feel lethargic. Alcohol causes dehydration, which will make your workouts both unpleasant and more risky. A general rule: leave an hour-long buffer between each drink and your workout. You can work out in the evening, but researchers recommend avoiding strenuous exercise one hour before bedtime.
Create a Restful Environment
Most people sleep better in a cool, quiet and dark environment. Try blackout blinds or pink noise to eliminate external light and noise. You may also find light to moderate exercise before bed – such as yoga or resistance training – improves your overall sleep quality.
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal well-being and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology inside, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.
*Based on SleepIQ® data from 1/1/19 to 1/1/20 and self-reported responses of sleepers using SleepIQ® technology from 5/12/19 – 1/5/20.