I am an avid cyclist. Mountain bike or road bike, I love them both! Over the past weekend, I took a beautiful road trip down to the Lowveld to compete in the Barberton XCM mountain bike challenge. And boy, was it a challenge! In the end, I didn’t so much compete as ride along for the pleasure of it. The mountains were breathtakingly beautiful. Shrouded in mist and covered in greenery. It was such a pleasure to see the valleys and the rugged cliff faces, and all in the name of exercise!
Do you like to exercise? Moreover, do you sometimes find it difficult to fall asleep after an intense workout? If one or both of these things are true about you, read on to find out how to enhance your sleep after a particularly gruelling exercise session.
Time your exercise session
First of all, the kind of exercise that you prefer will play an important role in whether or not you’ll be able to fall asleep soon after the workout. If you like to do cardio, sleep may be a bit elusive directly after you finished training. Why is that the case? When we do cardio or aerobic exercises (same thing), our bodies generate a lot of cortisol. And for those of you that don’t know, cortisol is the stress hormone. Our bodies also produce endorphins, which is the happy hormone. The combination of happy and stress hormones makes it difficult for our bodies to fall asleep. That’s not too difficult to comprehend, right?
So if you prefer running, cycling or swimming, you should try to get your workout done as early in the day as possible. Preferably, right after you got out of bed! I find early morning running to be invigorating, leaving me fresh and ready for the day. go ahead and give it a try, you won’t regret it!
If you like to do anaerobic exercises, like lifting weights, you can do it closer to bedtime. During this type of training, your body won’t produce as much cortisol, so you won’t struggle to fall asleep.
Benefits of sleep on muscle recovery
When we sleep, our bodies go through four or five sleep phases, depending from scientist to scientist. Most of you should have read about these sleep phases by now. But for those that haven’t, here is a quick recap of the sleep phases and how they work. I’ll go with four stages for now, because it is easier to explain:
Stage 1 – During this sleep stage our bodies start to relax and breathing deepens. We can very easily be woken up during this stage of sleep.
Stage 2 – Our brainwave activity starts slowing down and we don’t wake up as easily anymore. During this stage, our heart rate starts slowing down and our body temperature starts slowly decreasing.
Stage 3 – This is known as the deep sleep phase. Our brainwaves are at their lowest during this phase and it is quite difficult to wake someone from stage three sleep. It is also during this phase of sleep that our bodies undergo higher rates of recovery. So after exercise, stage three sleep is what your body needs.
Stage 4 – The last sleep phase is known as Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM). Most people know this as the dream stage of sleep. During this phase, our brainwave activity speeds up again and our eyes move around rapidly in their sockets, hence the name…
After we completed the four sleep phases, we start over from phase one. A normal sleep cycle (completing all four stages) takes anything between 90 and 12 minutes.
So how does this benefit us when we exercise? How does knowing about how the sleep cycle works help us with muscle recovery? Here is a hint, look at the description of stage three again. Stage three is the most restorative of the four sleep phases as, during this stage of sleep, our cells recover at a very high rate. Thus, if you are an athlete or an avid fitness freak, you want to get in as much deep sleep as possible. So what it boils down to is that you need to sleep for long periods at a time. In other words, napping is not the best way to restore sore muscles, but sleeping for eight to nine hours at a time is what you need.
If you don’t sleep enough, but you exercise a lot, your body won’t benefit as much from the training as you’d like it to.
What kind of mattress must I get if I love to exercise?
That is a good question. Getting the right mattress is a really important aspect of living a healthy life. If you think about it, we spend almost a third of our lives in Dreamland, so having a good quality, comfortable mattress is definitely a must! Moreover, if you are a fitness freak like me, sleeping right at night is such a key aspect of enhancing your workout routine that you can’t skimp on a second rate mattress.
And that is why the people over at Kooi beds created the Kooi Superior Pocket bed series. Covering a wide spectrum of firmness levels, the Superior Pocket mattress was designed specifically for active people. The Kooi people know how important having a good nights’ sleep is for an athlete. Thus, with the Superior Pocket range, they strive to give athletes the best kind of rest possible!
Created from state of the art TechoFlex foam and uniquely placed pocket springs, this mattress is a must have for any serious athlete. The pocket springs, combined with the high-tech foam, almost makes the sleeper feel like he is floating on air. A great thing about this mattress is that it supports the body, without putting pressure on sore muscles. What’s more, if you have a spouse that shares your bed, you won’t even feel it when he or she turns over in their sleep!
Take it from me, after doing a tough race like the Barberton XCM, you need a proper mattress. And the Superior Pocket is as proper as it gets!
Happy training everyone.