How is sleep related to your fitness results?

Going to the gym is like being in a relationship – you have to be absolutely devoted, loyal and consistent, always learning and improving.

And of course, there are some things you should do by all means.

These include not only a good structured training program and a balanced diet, but most importantly – sleep.

Why? Let’s find out together.


Sleep is crucial for a lot of vital processes in our bodies.

When getting the right quantity and quality of sleep every night, we have more energy, our mood is better, our immune system is stronger, our hunger is at a normal level.

Understandable, the listed benefits contribute to our performance at the gym.

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Less sleep – more mistakes

Lack of sleep increases the mistakes we make which means that the possibility of an injury is higher.

The inability to train equals a nightmare for every fitness lover and I believe it’s a good enough reason to try to get your recommended 8-hours of sleep per night.

“Per night” is not said randomly – the time when you sleep matters too.

If you sleep during the day, your cortisol levels (stress hormone which functions to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates).

High cortisol levels are equal to the probability of losing more lean mass and less fat.

A study showed that people who slept 8,5 hours per night vs people who slept 5,5 hours per night lost the same amount of weight but the first group lost 55% more fat and preserved 60% more muscle than the second one.

Sleep hormones


Further on less sleep means that your body will have troubles breaking glucose down (glucose is important for energy), therefore energy levels will be breaking down instead.

Clearly this process will lead to you getting tired quicker and most likely, not being able to perform your whole workout.

Don’t think that this will affect your peak capability – no, you simply won’t have the energy needed to reach it!

Anabolic hormones

Another affected process in your body from the lack of sleep is the release of hormones.

While sleeping, the body releases high amount of anabolic hormones such as testosterone and IGF-1.

As many of you may already know, testosterone is closely related to building muscle.

When don’t sleep qualitatively, especially if the first stage of REM sleep is disrupted, the release of these vital hormones takes much longer.

This can disrupt the body’s ability to repair and build muscle during sleep and to lower testosterone levels overall.

A disastrous combination which will surely lead to reduced gains.

Ghrelin and leptine

Coming back again at the increased level of mistakes you make when you haven’t got enough sleep, the next topic is along the way.


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The so-called “decision fatigue” means limited complex decision making. Combined with hunger, both equal failed diets.

Leptin and ghrelin are the two hormones responsible for fullness and hunger. Leptin is the satiety hormone.

With low leptin levels, our stomach feels empty and we won’t feel satisfied even after having a big meal.

This may result in “binge eating” or consuming unusually large amounts of food, being unable to stop.

Ghrelin or also known as the “hunger hormone” is being secreted when the stomach is empty.

The secretion stops when the stomach is stretched. It acts on hypothalamic brain cells both to increase hunger, and to increase gastric acid secretion and gastrointestinal motility to prepare the body for food intake.

Ghrelin has been linked to inducing appetite and feeding behaviors. Studies have shown that ghrelin levels are negatively correlated with weight.

This data suggests that ghrelin functions as an adiposity signal, a messenger between the body’s energy stores and the brain. Short sleep duration is associated with high levels of ghrelin and obesity.

An inverse relationship between the hours of sleep and blood plasma concentrations of ghrelin exists – as the hours of sleep increase, ghrelin levels tend to lower and obesity is less likely.

Long story short – lack of sleep increases ghrelin (or hunger) and decreases leptin (or satiety), both of which lead to increased hunger and obesity.

How is fitness related to your sleep quality?

So far we have talked about how sleep is related to your fitness results but let’s turn things upside down – how is fitness related to your sleep quality, does it improve it or on the contrary?

It is widely known that exercise has a great deal of health benefits, depending on its type – cardio and HIIT keep your heart at a healthy state, while resistance training improves overall strength.

Here come more good news – it’s been proven that exercise will also help you with getting more and better sleep at night.

Higher body temperature is one of the signals our body uses to tell us that it is time for bed because this way the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is being increased.

If you are struggling with sleeping, you could use exercise in order to increase your body temperature.

In addition, by burning more energy during a workout the levels of adenosine, another hormone making you feel tired and sleepy, raise.

A study has undoubtedly shown that exercise is helpful for people suffering from chronic insomnia as well.

Only one session helped them to not only fall asleep faster, but also sleep longer.

Even though the exact reason could not be defined, the possible options are 1) the link to body temperature we’ve already discussed and 2) the potential of working out to lower anxiety and depression symptoms which are common for people with chronic insomnia.

Both cardio and resistance training seem to improve sleep, therefore it’s absolutely up to your preferences to decide which kind of exercise will be more enjoyable for you.

In conclusion

Sleep and fitness are inevitably connected through all of the ongoing processes in the body.

Less and bad sleep equals less gains and poor-quality workouts.

But it’s not only about the negatives at the gym, it’s about the negative effect it has on your entire well-being.

Feeling sleepy and tired all the time definitely makes you unfocused, unproductive and incapable of completing the necessary tasks.

On the other hand, exercise is good for both your physical and mental health – it keeps you in shape, gives you more energy, makes you sleep longer and better, but also improves your overall mood.

Indoors or outdoors, cardio or weights – it doesn’t matter how as long as you move your body and enjoy it!

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Author: Ilina Stoyanova

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