5 Reasons You Need a Sleep Log for Fitness Success

By Alex Hoffmann on September, 21 2020

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

It has long been established by the National Sleep Foundation that adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep, on average, in order to function optimally. However, it can be much easier said than done to maintain this healthy sleep pattern when life is moving at a hectic and often stressful pace. 

The types of food or beverages you consume, the amount of time you spend in front of an electronic screen, the kind of medications you take, the exercise habits (or lack thereof) you maintain, or the levels of stress and other mental health concerns you experience can all make it hard to fall or stay asleep, according to Harvard Health

What’s more, insufficient sleep can also make you feel irritable, anxious, and unfocused, and might even lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Aside from the medical risks and psychological effects, not enough sleep can derail your fitness too—and that’s where a sleep log comes in.

 

Why Do You Need a Sleep Log and How Do You Start One?

A sleep log is a journal or spreadsheet in which you record your sleep patterns each night. It’s also helpful to use your sleep log to record the variables that contributed to those rhythms. For example, when monitoring your sleep, take note of specific details like the following:

  • Did you nap at all in the daytime, and if so, for how long?
  • Did you consume nicotine, alcohol, caffeine after 6:00 PM?
  • Did you eat any filling meals or snacks after 6:00 PM?
  • Did you take any medications, and if so, what dosage?
  • Did you exercise, and if so, what time and for how long?
  • Did you feel tired or lethargic at all in the daytime?
  • Were you exposed to technology devices before sleeping?
  • What time did you go to sleep, and what time did you wake up?
  • How many total hours were you able to sleep that night?
  • How many times did you wake up in the middle of the night?
  • Do you feel rested, and what would you rate the sleep quality?

Pair your sleep log with a sleep tracker, like a fitness wearable or dedicated sleep tracker, so you can get more insights into the quality of your sleep, like how long you were in REM. 

 

How Your Sleep Log Can Impact Your Fitness

Once you’re in the habit of recording these sleep patterns on a daily basis, you can use that information to boost exercise performance. If you know, for example, that working out right before dinner keeps you up later at night, and therefore reduces your total sleep, you can shift your schedule to maximize your workout and your sleep. 

Here are five reasons to keep a sleep log as a way of optimizing your health and fitness routine.

 

Maximize Energy Levels

Adequate sleep revitalizes the mind and body which increases your stamina and energy output, according to Advances in Preventative Medicine. The more restful your sleep is, the more energized you feel, which then leads to an efficient and vigorous workout.

Likewise, the more energy is spent taking part in physical activities, the better your overall sleep quality will be too. A sleep log makes it easier to track this connection between energy levels and sleep duration so you can determine how many hours of undisrupted sleep are required to sustain and optimize your exercise routine. 

 

Address Repair and Recovery

When you’re deprived of sleep after a workout, the body secretes cytokine proteins, which cause inflammation and decrease immune function, according to the International Journal of Sports Medicine. Inflamed muscle tissue is less able to repair micro-tears caused by exercise, making adequate sleep one of the most essential factors for your post-workout recovery.

If you’re struggling with recovery, your sleep log can help you identify the ideal amount of time you need to properly recover after each workout. 

 

Time Your Workouts More Effectively

Although exercise at any time in the day is better than none at all, a sleep log can help you monitor how various workout times might affect your sleep. For example, as the American College of Sports Medicine explains, intense activity within two hours of bedtime keeps the heart rate elevated and delays the onset of REM sleep. 

If you notice that exercising closer to bedtime tends to reduce the quality or duration of your sleep, experiment with workout times in the morning or afternoon. Use the sleep log to see how your sleep differed on those nights from sleep after an evening workout. 

 

Tracks Your Hormonal and Metabolic Functions

If sleep deprivation occurs frequently, the stress hormone cortisol is released, which leads to excess fat in the body’s mid-section. Over time, this can slow the metabolism, according to Sleep Science. When you make a chronic habit out of not enough sleep, your risk of diabetes and obesity could increase. 

However, when sleep patterns are healthy, it’s easier to regulate metabolic and hormonal functions. Sleep supports growth hormone production to regenerate cells, form lean muscles, and distribute weight evenly. As a result, this can take the stress off your metabolism and allow your body to function properly and with greater ease.   

 

Get Motivated to Exercise

Athletes with irregular or inadequate sleep patterns are more likely to notice mood disturbances, which can cause motivation to suffer, suggests Frontiers in Psychology. If both the mind and body are rested, however, it’s easier to access that motivation and get yourself to get in a workout. Use your sleep log to adjust your bedtime based on how you feel in the morning and how motivated you are to workout each day—more sleep may lead to greater motivation.

 

Keep a Sleep Log for Fitness Success

One-third of Americans less sleep each night than what their bodies actually need, suggests data from the CDC. If you suspect that unhealthy sleeping habits are interfering with your exercise performance, use a sleep log to identify what needs to be adjusted so you can sleep better, work out harder, and keep your body healthy and strong.

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

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