Sleep: The Key to Fitness
Sleep is as essential to health as is proper nutrition and exercise. The Chinese have a philosophy of yin and yang – that two seemingly opposite states are actually interdependent. Being active, therefore, requires balance through rest.
Recently, I came across a study of adolescents that showed how hormonal changes that trigger proper transition to puberty are significantly associated with certain sleep stages. This suggests that disordered sleep patterns may markedly affect endocrine and hormonal functions, and this has important implications for women who want to be healthy and fit for fertility.
Another recent study showed that inadequate sleep may be associated with increase weight gain, and prior studies have shown that working the night shift (which by its very nature affects the usual rhythms of day and night and sleep patterns) can lead to obesity.
And weight gain, especially obesity, has been shown by itself to increase the odds of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. The inter-relation between the two states thus can become a vicious cycle.
Additional studies have shown that one day’s exercise alone does not improve that night’s sleep, but over time, continued exercise leads to improved sleep patterns.
This suggests that a commitment to exercise has to be made over a period of time. When you begin a new workout regime, the first few days you may be sore, and that soreness may disrupt your sleep. In the long run, however, exercise will help you rest deeper and more easily.
Moreover, if you are tired, the study suggested that a longer time to fall asleep and a shorter time spent sleeping was associated with a shorter workout the next day. Planning and scheduling are thus key to staying on track.
Multiple studies have shown improvement in mood from regular exercise, and some of this may be attributed to an improvement in sleep.
A study in cancer survivors showed a marked improvement in sleep, mood and other indicators of well being after a sustained and regular commitment to a yoga practice.
The connection between exercise and sleep is clear. To maximize your overall health, and support improvement of reproductive function and fertility, maintaining a regular exercise regimen along with consistent bedtimes and seven to eight hours a night of sleep is essential.