New research suggests that good quality sleep is associated with adherence to health and fitness goals.

If you regularly sacrifice sleep in a bid to inch closer to your health or fitness goals, you may want to reconsider your approach because, in news that’s unlikely to surprise anyone, good sleep has been associated with higher rates of adherence to training and nutrition plans.

A new study, published by the American Heart Association, explored the impact sleep quality has on our ability to stick to meal and exercise plans found that getting a good night’s sleep may actually make it easier for us to achieve our goals. 

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Throughout the study, researchers monitored 125 participants while they underwent a 12-month health programme, tracking their sleep, waking activity and rest. The results were then used to rate the quality of a participant’s sleep, and each was awarded a sleep score from 0-6 based on six measures of sleep: regularity, satisfaction, alertness, timing, efficiency (the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed) and duration.

Researchers found that higher sleep health scores were associated with higher rates of attendance to group sessions, adherence to caloric intake goals and even an increase in time spent doing moderate-vigorous physical activity, too.

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While the findings aren’t especially revolutionary, they do reinforce where our priorities should lie when approaching a new fitness or wellbeing goal and the importance of quality sleep. That said, it’s also worth noting that researchers recorded a decline in overall adherence as time went on, which is quite common.

Researchers also noted that while the evidence does appear to draw a link between sleep health and adherence to goals, they can’t rule out that the results weren’t purely down to coincidence. “We had hypothesised that sleep would be associated with lifestyle modification; however, we didn’t expect to see an association between sleep health and all three of our measures of lifestyle modification,” said Christopher E Kline, PhD, an associate professor in the department of health and human development at the University of Pittsburgh. “Although we did not intervene on sleep health in this study, these results suggest that optimising sleep may lead to better lifestyle modification adherence.”

How to create a great sleep routine

So, how can you optimise sleep? By aiming for at least seven hours of undisturbed sleep at the same time every night – even at the weekends. Having a routine helps to regulate your circadian rhythm so that your body knows instinctively when it’s time to fall asleep and wake up.

Being physically active, eating a nutrient-dense diet and managing stress levels are also helpful for improving sleep quality, and creating bedtime rituals, such as following a skincare routine, switching off devices at least an hour before lights out and reading, journaling or meditating before bed can be beneficial, too.

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