The Importance of Sleep

Importance Of Sleep Image

Sleep - How important is it to those who exercise often (as well as to those who do not)? Scientists have been studying sleep patterns for decades, so there is plenty of research on the importance of sleep in our daily lives. Sleep also affects performance during high intensity training programs like military and law enforcement training. I guess the old saying "Well Rested - Well Tested" also applies to taking Physical Fitness Tests.

The best training plans will not work if sleep and nutrition are neglected. Without adequate sleep (eight hours a night), there is not enough rest for muscle cell growth and repair. In fact, when you sleep, growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis in the muscles occurs if you eat foods with protein during the day. For adolescents especially, sleep is critical as growth can be impaired when quality and quantity of sleep is lacking. 

Lack of sleep can also affect your mood and increase hormonal stress levels which will have a negative impact on performance. Now, one night of missed sleep is not going to have many negative affects on your performance, but several days in a row or a few weeks of interupted sleep can lead to symptoms similar to over-training syndrome.

In the military and in law enforcement professions, sleep may not occur at regular intervals and the quality may be lacking. The following list can assist in getting a good night sleep and help you achieve some of the many benefits sleep produce:

1) Never Oversleep

You cannot catch up on lost sleep. Over sleeping (10 hours) can change the body's patterns and make it more difficult to fall asleep the following night.

2) Exercise or Hard Physical Work

Those who work hard during the day or exercise will have an easier time falling asleep compared to those who do not.

3) Sleeping Area Should be Calm

Calming music, cool climate with a humming fan or de-humidifier (seasonal) to drown out exterior noises will make the place you sleep more conducive to quality sleep. There are many sleep technology CDs on the market that have been proven to help.  Check out this one I have been involved with - Military Sleep Fit - coming soon to the Military Fitness eBook Store.

4) Avoid Active Evenings

If possible do not exercise 2-3 hours prior to sleep or be highly active prior to sleeping. Relaxing a few hours prior to sleep works well for naturally preparing the body for quality sleep. Avoid watching television in bed.

Recovery and growth will take a backward step in your training program if you do not prioritize sleep, so get to sleep if you want to grow bigger, faster, and stronger.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.

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