After a long day, a good night’s rest is important for everyone. When that long day includes vigorous physical activity rest becomes even more vital for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is the most important time to recover from the physical activity of the day (1). Whether you’re a runner, rock climber, swimmer, or anything in between, sleep is necessary to allow your body to recover and strengthen.
A lack of proper sleep when recovering from physical activity does more than slow your body’s natural recovery. Sleep deprivation in athletes also leads to changes in mood, increased levels of stress hormones, and increased feelings of physical exhaustion (2). When setting fitness goals, sleep should be a priority in any training regimen.
For physical recovery, it is recommended that an adult get approximately eight hours of quality sleep a night.
As each body is different, so too are the body’s sleep requirements. Professional athletes in training sometimes sleep as many as ten to twelve hours a night (2). Factors such as genetics and the level of physical exertion done in a day all factor into determining the amount of rest the body needs. Just as each body has different nutritional needs, they also have different sleep needs.
When training, it is important to pay attention to how your body feels. If you find yourself struggling to wake up, you may need to look at the amount of sleep you are getting and adjust accordingly. However, all sleep is not created equal. When living an active lifestyle, both the quantity and quality of the sleep you get is important (3). So what defines quality sleep?
Quality sleep is identified as occurring in an environment that allows for the entire body to benefit from the natural rehabilitation that occurs while you sleep. This includes ensuring that the environment you are sleeping in is dark, quiet, and a comfortable temperature. Sleep specialists also highlight the importance of a quality mattress that provides both comfort and support (4).
Well constructed memory foam and memory foam hybrid mattresses also provide the benefit of increased temperature control over other mattresses. A cool sleeping environment helps slow your heart rate, allowing for the body to fall asleep quicker and increasing the hours of rest your body receives (4).
How you sleep is another important factor to consider when recovering from physical activity. The position of the body during sleep can also help relieve your body from the aches and pains caused by exhaustion.
The quality and thickness of your pillow, for example, can play a major role in relieving shoulder, spine, and neck pain. A pillow should allow for the body to rest in a neutral position with the spine in alignment and the cushioning of the pillow supporting the weight of your head (5).
Living a healthy lifestyle does not end at the gym. The quality of your sleep plays a major role in your recovery from physical activity, as well as your body’s ability to perform. No matter how you exercise, make sure that you are giving your body the quality rest and recovery it deserves.