In our always-on society, you might feel ashamed for logging off of work early, taking a day off from workout out, or even getting a full eight hours of sleep when there’s still so much to be done around the house. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Rest is actually a crucial part of your recovery process — which in turn helps you perform at your highest levels, both physically and mentally. Here’s more about why rest is important and why you should prioritize it in your everyday life.
What happens when your body rests?
You might have the idea that when you rest, you’re being lazy and completely shutting down. In fact, there’s plenty going on below the surface that makes resting extra important.
For example, when you sleep, your muscles recover from whatever hard work you did that day. During sleep, your body releases human growth hormone (HGH), which is responsible for stimulating muscle growth, repairing small muscle tears from exercise, and healing damage to tendons and ligaments. Sleep is also connected with an increase muscle mass, which occurs from the synthesis of myofibrillar proteins, which causes changes in muscle mass after strength training.
When you sleep, your body also restocks your glycogen stores. Remember, glycogen is a stored form of glucose (aka sugar) that gives you energy. And finally, sleep helps your body reduce inflammation through the release of prolactin, a hormone that helps regulate inflammation.
Outside of the physical benefits of sleep, sleep is also linked with mental health. Many mental health disorders have been shown to worsen with poor sleep. Plus, sleep is when your brain sorts through all the information you’ve learned during the day and locks it away in your memories for easy access later. So if you had a big training day at work or you read a new article for school, sleep will help you remember that information more easily.
Ways to improve sleep
So now that you know why rest is actually so productive, how exactly can you improve the quality of your sleep? Here are a few suggestions:
Prioritize certain nutrients. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and tryptophan are all associated with more restorative sleep. Similarly, eating protein before bed can help you feel full throughout the night (read: you won’t wake up with a growling stomach) and improve your muscles’ ability to repair overnight.
Build a consistent exercise routine. Both strength training and aerobic training have been shown to improve sleep quality. But be careful: Working out too close to your bedtime can have the opposite effect by making you feel too energized to sleep. If you do want to incorporate movement into your bedtime routine, try yoga, light stretching, or mobility work.
Reduce stress. Anxiety and stress can keep you awake for hours. Find a stress-reducing practice that works for you, whether that’s meditation, a gratitude journal, or breathwork. These strategies can help you unwind before bed and quiet your mind.
While these rest strategies are generally helpful, you can do much more to optimize your rest — and your performance — by working with a precision health coach. Our coaches at Wild Health can help you reset your circadian rhythm and identify practices that help you get the highest quality of rest so that you wake up in the morning, energetic and ready to take on whatever the day has in store.