How diet and exercise can affect our sleep. Applied Nutrition takes a closer look

Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing. Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep.

Everyone’s individual sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and need an average of eight hours of sleep a night. However, some individuals are able to function without sleepiness or drowsiness after as little as six hours of sleep. Others can't perform at their peak unless they've slept ten hours. And, contrary to common myth, the need for sleep doesn't decline with age but the ability to sleep for six to eight hours at one time may be reduced.

Here Applied Nutrition have put together our own research and wisdom on how workouts and what you eat and supplement with can impact on the quality and quantity of sleep you get.

For those of us who are not suffering from insomnia or another sleep disorder, there is much we can do to secure a far better night of sleep using what we call good sleep practices. If you can adhere to one of these each and every day, do it!

Go to bed and wake up at the same time of day no matter what. It is perhaps the single most effective way of helping improve your sleep, even though it involves the use of an alarm clock.

NREM sleep typically occupies 75–80% of total sleep each night. Many of the health benefits of sleep take place during NREM sleep – tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored and hormones that are essential for growth and development are released.

Little girl doesn't look quite ready for the day

REM sleep typically occupies 20–25% of total sleep each night. REM sleep, when dreaming occurs, is essential to our minds for processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress. It is also thought to be vital for learning, stimulating the brain regions used in learning and developing new skills.

If the REM and NREM cycles are interrupted multiple times throughout the night — either due to snoring, difficulties breathing or waking up frequently throughout the night — then we miss out on vital body processes, which can affect our health and well-being the next day and long term.

Sleep and physical exertion have a direct relationship. Many of us know of the deep, sound sleep we often experience after sustained physical activity, such as a daylong hike, an extended bike ride, or even an exhausting day of working in the garden. Scientific studies dating back to the 1970s support some of this subjective wisdom, though perhaps not as strongly as you’d hope. One such early study, published in 1975, shows that progressively increased levels of physical activity in healthy males results in a corresponding progressive increase in the amount of deep NREM sleep (dreamless sleep) they obtain on subsequent nights.

In younger, healthy adults, exercising frequently increases total sleep time, especially deep NREM sleep. It also deepens the quality of sleep, resulting in more powerful electrical brainwave activity.

It is still a clear relationship with a significant trend toward increasingly better sleep with increasing levels of physical activity, and a strong influence of sleep on daytime physical activity. Those who train also feel more alert and energetic as a result of the sleep improvement, and signs of depression proportionally decrease. It is clear that a sedentary life is one that does not help with sound sleep, and all of us should try to engage in some degree of regular exercise to help maintain not only for the fitness of our bodies but also the quantity and quality of our sleep. Sleep, in return, will boost your fitness and energy, setting in motion a positive, self-sustaining cycle of improved physical activity and mental health.

One brief note of caution regarding physical activity: try not to exercise right before bed. Body temperature can remain high for an hour or two after physical exertion. Should this occur too close to bedtime, it can be difficult to drop your core temperature sufficiently to initiate sleep due to the exercise-driven increase in metabolic rate. Best to get your workout in at least two to three hours before turning the bedside light out. If you are still finding it hard to nod off then why not try our Night Time ZMA capsule. ZMA 24 Hour is a unique potent combination of highly bioavailable forms of Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6, with added Valerian Root extract & Passion Flower to the Night Cap for a blissful nights sleep. Check it out here.


When it comes to diet, severe caloric restriction, such as reducing food intake to around 1000 calories a day makes it harder to fall asleep normally, and decreases the amount of deep NREM sleep at night.

What you eat also appears to have some impact on your nighttime sleep. For healthy sleep, we suggest that you should avoid going to bed too full or too hungry, and shy away from diets that are excessively biased toward carbohydrates especially sugar.

Instead opt for a slow releasing meal such as our 100% Casein Slow Release Protein With Added Digestive Enzyme Blend. Applied Nutrition’s 100% Casein Protein is vital to anybody wanting to refuel their muscles during sleep, when it is impractical to consume food or drink. During this period your body can enter into starvation mode and may start to break down muscle tissue. This could have a negative impact on both muscle recovery and performance. As a result Applied Nutrition’s 100% Casein Protein is digested slowly over a sustained period of time (up to seven hours), thus supplying your muscles with the amino acids required to synthesise muscle tissue, facilitating repair and growth. Check it out here.


We can all benefit from improving the quality of our sleep. For many of us, it may simply be a case of making small lifestyle or attitude adjustments in order to help us sleep better. Try them today and wake up refreshed and alert tomorrow!

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