The Unknown Importance of Rest

There is an eternal debate within the world of fitness: What is more important, training or nutrition? Some people say that 70% of the results are obtained from the diet, while others give most credit to training. But what they forget to put into the equation is the third pillar that holds the structure together, that supports the results. The third factor that almost everyone forgets in the fitness hierarchy is the rest. This article intends to communicate the importance of rest, why it is important, why you shouldn't ignore it, what happens if you don't respect it and how to improve it.

There will be a lot of information without a doubt, so keep reading!

Why is Rest Important?

One of the most important things to progress in sport is rest. When you rest, your body recovers from the effort made, your muscles recompose their fibres, and you charge yourself with energy, among many other things that happen, especially when you sleep.

The human being needs to rest. This is a fact. How long you need is an interesting debate, but there is no debate as rest is imperative. It is unnecessary to point out the number of studies that confirm the positive impacts of rest or sleep on your life. However, most of the studies do not provide clear indications that help you improve it, and, in general, they use the terms' rest' and 'sleep' interchangeably. 

But they are not the same! In the broadest sense, sleep is to be in a state of rest where you achieve the inaction or suspension of the senses and all involuntary movements. Rest is any action that helps you relieve your fatigue and any physical or moral discomfort. Sleep is a biological need that restores the body's physical function and psychological essential for full performance.

A woman taking rest

How to Conjugate' Rest' and 'Sleep'?

Generally, you rest when you sleep because sleep overcomes you. And yes, it is true. But sometimes, it is not synonymous with rest. Quality rest is continuous sleep. An inadequate night's rest (with micro-awakenings), on a physical level, will give you a new day with fatigue, drowsiness, decreased attention and concentration, slow thinking, and irritability. On a psychological level, it may favour the development of diseases such as depression and anxiety in the long run.

The quality of sleep marks the quality of life. How you have rested will determine, to a large extent, your new day: waking up with the desire and strength to face it and with a more positive state of mind (both personally and professionally) or feeling like a real hell.

Side Effects of Lack of Sleep

The list of side effects of lack of sleep is extensive. It has been considered an epidemic and a public health problem by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Lack of sleep causes, among other conditions:
  • There is an increased risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity and cancer.
  • It reduces the quality of life since it increases irritability, reduces concentration, memory, patience, it can create hallucinations and delusions in cases of acute deprivation.
  • It reduces the capacity and increases the reaction time, and reduces the feeling of alert, which dramatically increases work accidents, medical errors, traffic accidents, etc.
  • There is an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • It increases systemic inflammation in the body.
  • It reduces the immune system's activity, which makes you more prone to suffering from any disease.

At the sporting level, less sleep will compromise performance.

A man taking rest

Especially the obesity section is very interesting, since sleep deprivation:

  • It reduces leptin levels so that food will satisfy you less.
  • Ghrelin levels will increase.
  • It will consequently increase the appetite and the feeling of hunger.
  • It reduces the oxidation of fat, which will cost more to lose weight.
  • Resistance to insulin
  • Lower your testosterone levels
  • It reduces the production of growth hormone, which is secreted mainly at night.
  • Stress will increase, and cortisol will rise chronically.

How to Improve Sleep?

Diet

Diet has an essential effect on rest and its quality, so optimizing that section is the first step to getting a good night's rest. Regarding diet, we can do things that improve rest and things that make it worse. 

  • Avoid copious meals before sleeping. A full stomach can make it more difficult to fall asleep and wake up more quickly. 
  • Avoid any drink with stimulants, such as caffeine. 
  • Avoid foods rich in spices that cause heartburn or burning in the oesophagus and significant discomfort preventing you from falling asleep. 
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates often help improve rest because they indirectly promote melatonin secretion, a hormone that helps sleep. 

Exercise

Regular exercise helps you sleep better but doing a vigorous physical activity before bed can complicate the matter.

Therefore, ideally, exercise as early as possible during the day. Doing weights or a running session an hour before bed may not be the best idea. 

Lifestyle and Rest Conditions 

  • Stop smoking. Nicotine and rest do not go hand in hand.
  • Avoid bedtime stimulants.
  • Do not use mobile phones, tablets, laptops and any device that produces blue light before sleeping. 
  • Get regular exercise throughout the day.
  • Have a proper bedtime routine.

A young couple resting after run

The Two Ways of Resting if you are into Sports

Rest is a fundamental pillar of sports activity. When you are carrying out a training plan, or you are going to plan it, it is essential to consider the rest days you will choose and how you will rest (active or passive). The two ways of resting are.

Passive Rest

Passive rest is simply doing absolutely nothing during rest days. It is recommended after a superhuman effort, such as a marathon, and when you are exhausted and without strength.

This type of rest is valid since you recover energy, feed your muscles well, and reduce your cortisol levels, but there is still a better type of rest than this, an active rest.

Active Rest

Active rest consists of doing some physical activity that involves little effort on your rest day: a 5 km walk, riding a bike on flat ground or something like that. What do you get out of this?

In addition to resting the same as in passive rest, thanks to the fact that you are in a movement that promotes blood circulation through your body and accelerates the recovery process since more nutrients reach your muscles. Also, if you have stiff muscles, it will help you loosen them up a bit.

Final Thoughts!

Now you know everything necessary to improve how you rest. You're also now well-versed with the importance of sleeping, why it is essential, what you can expect if you do not sleep enough, and how to improve it. After applying our tips, we hope that you will be waking up every day well-rested and in good spirits – perfect sleep and rest exist.