Sleep – oh hard it can be sometimesMarch 23, 2018
Sleep: an essential component of your exercise routine
Sleep definitely feels like something from a past life right now. With a 3-year-old in the family, a busy husband and a Pilates studio to run, it was not a plentiful resource anyway. But add our new-born into the mix and sleep seems like a scarce commodity at the moment. I am painfully aware that good quality shut-eye is essential to any exercise routine and as I continue my postpartum fitness journey, it is something I have been thinking about a lot. I would go as far as to say that a good night’s sleep is as important as your workouts. If your body can’t recover from training, there is no point in training.
I appreciate I am not alone in being sleep deprived, there are many new mums out there feeling exactly like I do, and plenty more people besides. But I have learnt to be mindful in the way I think of sleep now; I try not to see it as a luxury but as an essential part of my return to fitness.
Why sleep is so important
Regularly getting enough high-quality sleep is a core component of any exercise program. When you are sleeping, your body releases hormones such as Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which help your muscles recover and get stronger. Without sleep, your body not only produces less growth hormone, but the levels of stress hormones such as Cortisol remain high, reducing your body’s ability to recover. In addition, low levels of sleep can play havoc with the hormones related to appetite, leading to overeating and weight gain.
Discover how much sleep feels right for you
Conventional wisdom suggests that eight hours sleep is the perfect amount, but this is not always true for everyone. Our sleep needs and routines are individual and it is really important to find out what works best for you. Even pre-children, I have always needed a good amount of sleep. At the moment it is a given that I will not get the amount I need in one solid stretch. But rather than getting hung up on the number of hours my body craves, I find concentrating on how I feel is a much more helpful guide to ensuring I get some good quality sleep. And if that means a mini power nap when Angus sleeps, then so be it!
Adapting your exercise routine
I have found it very helpful to stop worrying about sleep and accept the situation. I am almost certainly going to be sleep deprived for a few months yet. Worrying that I am lacking in sleep just made things worse and the key for me has been to adapt. If I don’t feel up to exercising, I let my body recover and do my workout the next day. I have learnt to be a little bit kinder to myself through thinking more about the importance of my sleep.
Keep a regular bedtime
In the same way I have my exercise plan and routines for my children, I have found that being fairly strict about the time I go to bed really helps. There will always be more jobs to do, I will always feel like I need more time to myself in the evenings and there will always be another box set to finish watching. But the thing that makes me feel the best version of me in the morning is sticking to my regular bedtime of 10pm as much as I can.
Thinking of sleep as a key component of your exercise routine? Feel free to share any tips you have discovered to improve your sleep health, as always we would love to hear from you.