Did you know the average adult in the UK gets just 6 hours and 19 minutes of sleep a night? That’s two hours under the recommendation of at least eight hours a night. A lack of sleep won’t just affect your ability to wake up and tackle the day ahead, it also can affect your training and nutrition. To get the lowdown on all things sleep and training, we spoke with UN1T coach, Matt Hunt.
How does sleep impact your training?
Matt: It’s an essential part of fitness and exercise, yet it’s very often overlooked. If you consider that quality sleep keeps you performing at your best, poor sleep habits may be altering the intensity of your workout. Less overall energy means less energised workouts. Also not having the concentration and the brain power to get through a class like SQUAD or TARGET will impact the effectiveness of the training session.
How can sleep support your recovery?
Matt: Rest is critical to the recovery process, because while you’re resting, your body is building muscle. This happens most efficiently during sleep, and without enough quality sleep, your body cannot fully recover from exercise. If you are continually not getting enough sleep it may increase the likelihood of injury.
Can exercise help us sleep better?
Matt: Vigorous exercisers get the best sleep, non-exercisers have the least energy and those who sit less during the day also sleep better. The majority of people who exercise regularly, especially in the morning, wake fewer times throughout the night and spend less time in REM sleep, the lightest stage of sleep. Exercise promotes fat loss, and people who hold a lot of stomach weight tend to snore, which ultimately impacts their quality of sleep. I know I need to sleep a lot after a heavy UN1T class such as SET.
What impact of sleep is there on nutrition/diet?
Matt: A lack of sleep can affect diet and eating habits. Sleep loss has been found to interfere with hunger hormones, increasing a person’s appetite during the day and bringing on cravings. Also, the convenience of ready-made meals in the UK are incredible, and if you’re tired, then cooking a balanced meal isn’t a priority, so you’re more likely to have a grab-and-go meal rather than a nutritious dinner.
Do you have any tips on how you make sure you get a good night’s sleep?
Matt: I would say turn off electronics at least one hour before bedtime to quiet the mind and de-stimulate the senses, avoid caffeine after 3 or 4 p.m., and try not to do any office work/study in the bedroom as it’s important to separate where you sleep. If you’re already sleep deprived and struggling to know whether to trade sleep for exercise, prioritise sleep and aim for just three workouts each week. Once you’re on a regular sleep schedule, you can increase the number and intensity of your workouts. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep, so it’s important to get to yours.