Why sleep is the best exercise to get fit

Posted by Catarina Dahlin on


Most of us have heard that doing sports can help to improve our sleep quality but did you know that sleep also helps you to get fit? Getting more and better quality sleep really can help you improve your athletic performance, regardless of your level and preferred sport. Research shows that sleeping better can help you improve your speed, accuracy and reaction time when doing sports. In an experiment conducted at Stanford University the college’s basketball team slept on average 2 hours per night longer over the period of a few months. The added hours really paid off on the court, both in the team’s results and their mood.

The basketball players increased their running speed by 5%, their free throws were 9% more accurate, their reflexes were faster and an added benefit was that they also felt happier.

So how is sleep actually helping us to get fit? When we go into the first stage of deep sleep a growth hormone is released which helps the body to regenerate and repair. The hormone stimulates protein synthesis, promotes cell division and helps to break down fat which provides energy for tissue repair.

The more we exercise the more we need to sleep. If you start training for a marathon or increase your exercise frequency the increased intensity can weaken your immune system and put you at a greater risk of falling ill. Studies has shown that athletes who on average sleep less than 8 hours a night are almost twice as likely to get a sports injury as those who sleep more than 8 hours.

Just as you need more calories when you do more sports you also need more sleep to fully recover. If you are training intensively you should sleep up to an hour extra per night. Athletes at the top of their game sleep even more.

Serena Williams has said that she likes an early night and goes to bed at around 7pm, another tennis legend, Roger Federer has said that he enjoys 11 to 12 hours of sleep per night.

Regardless of whether you are a pro-athlete or do sports as hobby, there is no denying that a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to stay fit.


Sources: Association between Objectively-measured Physical Activity and Sleep, Loprinzia et al. The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players Mah et al. Chronic Lack of Sleep is Associated with Increased Sports Injuries in Adolescent Athletes, Milewski et al.


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