Sleep Series Part 2: 5 Surprising Links Between Sleep and Exercise

Fitness // Louise McDonald // 6 October 2016

Sleep is a crucial part of our physical and mental wellbeing. In part one of our two-part sleep series, our 12WBT Dietitian Lisa discussed the importance of sleep when it comes to a healthy diet. Now that we have the low down with the nutrition side of things, let’s take a look at how sleep or lack of relates to our performance. Over to one of our 12WBT Support Crew and fitness gurus, Louise!

1.  Cellular Repair

While deep REM sleep is where our brain’s restoration occurs, during non-REM sleep is where our physical repair takes place. New molecules are formed and our bodies produce growth hormones during a restful state that assists in skeletal muscle adaptation and repair. Without sufficient growth hormone production, we are less effective in producing our best self and are inhibiting progression towards our goals.

2. Reducing Risk Of Injury

With adequate sleep, we are in a far better position to prevent injuries due to the reduced amount of inflammation in our bodies, the increase in our mental clarity, attention and sharper focus. Our memory improves and gives us a much stronger platform to work with when tackling our workouts, with the mental and physical united in effort.

Also read: How to Spot The Signs of Early Injury

3. Reduced Stress

The stress hormone cortisol can be our nemesis and can have us feeling totally whacked with elevated levels when we’re stressed. Excess production of cortisol can lead to many different dysfunctions in the body from low moods, erratic blood sugar levels, disruptions to our digestive system – the list goes on!

Sleep deprivation impacts our ability to regulate these factors and can actually interfere with our adrenal glands (we need these working properly for systematic weight management and consistent energy levels), which in turn can lead to difficulty in losing weight, poor sleeping patterns and many other disturbances in the body. Ever feel like you’re doing the hard yards and eating like a champion, only to feel frustrated that nothing seems to be shifting? Sleep can be a major player here, and many of us fail to recognise its importance.

4. Makes You Stronger

What? Sleep makes you stronger you say? YES! Not getting enough sleep has a direct link to reduced physical output and in turn can lower immunity levels, increase cravings and upset hormonal balances that keeps things tidy across the board. Giving your body the time to allow the restoration and rejuvenation process to take place puts you in a much better position to build on your strength – both mental AND physical. With this, you are far better in being able to stay consistent with a sensible approach to your nutrition, and improve your overall fitness level.

Also read: Think Before You Eat: Stop Emotional Eating

5. Live Longer

It goes with out saying that getting enough shut eye promotes wellbeing and deep repair. Extended periods of shortened sleep cycles are detrimental to the healing process and it is recommended that we aim to have 7-9 hours of cloud surfing per night for awesome vitality and longevity! Are you spending valuable sleeping time performing extended workouts as you’re desperate to hit your goals? Get to bed earlier and take stock that both ends of the spectrum play a vital role in our wellbeing, and without addressing both of these factors, frustration and slumpy feelings may be more present than superhero status!

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  1. Jodie Reply

    Ok then, exactly how do you improve the amount of sleep you get? I have been struggling with weight loss for over 8 years now. I average anywhere between 4 & 5 hours sleep even if I’m in bed for 7-8 hours!! I have tried EVERYTHING & nothing is working. It’s so depressing, my weight just keeps going up & up. I eat a healthy diet & exercise within my injury limits. My doc has prescribed melatonin & a cpap machine to help my sleep. Still after 6 months of using both more weight gain & not much improvement of the sleeping. Hypnotherapy & lipo are the only things I haven’t tried 🙁

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Jodie – Great question! If you have tried all the suggestions here: , spoken with your GP and still no treatment is working, we would suggest going back to your GP and discussing a sleep study to see if there are other causes for you inability to sleep. We do know that by exercising regularly (not too close to bed time) and maintaining a healthy portioned diet you are providing the optimum conditions to help with sleep and overall health.

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  2. denisse Reply

    im 15 and i was wondering how many hours of sleep i should be getting

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Denisse – The Sleep Health Foundation recommends that 15 year olds aim for between 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Here is their FAQ sheet on the topic: Sweet dreams 🙂

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  3. Samantha Reply

    What practical advice do you have for people who work late and shiftworkers? Eg I don’t finish until 8.30pm, so i’m not eating dinner until 9ish and the idea of being unwound from my day and in bed by 10pm is just unrealistic. To try and eat dinner earlier in the day would mean 4.30pm, I’m just not hungry at that time (and still at work).

    1. Leila Nemra Reply

      Hi Samantha – Great question and a very common concern. The great news is that we want the program to work for you! We have loads of shift workers doing 12WBT and what we recommend is that you line up your days eating with the actual hours you are awake (and the eating style you prefer). For example, say you had a night shift, your ‘day’ might look like this:
      • 2.30pm Wake Up
      • 3pm Breakfast
      • 4.30pm Train
      • 6 – 6.30pm Snack
      • 8pm Start work
      • 8.30 – 9.30pm Lunch
      • 11.30 – 12pm Snack
      • 2-3am Dinner
      • 5-5.30am Snack
      • 6am Home
      • 8am Bed (sleep for the ‘night’)
      Controlling the variables as much as you can is the best chance to establish routine and sleep patterns!

      Hope this helps!
      12WBT Support Crew

Contact Us directly if you have a specific question.

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