Are You Catching Your Zzzzzzz’s??
Do you find that even after focusing on a well-balanced diet and a consistent fitness routine, you still feel worn out and sluggish? We try to keep our bodies healthy through nutrition and exercise, but we often overlook one of the most important aspects to keeping our bodies healthy and recharged…SLEEP…
3 Tips for Better Sleep
Good sleep is something that eludes so many of us. Whether you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or you sleep for a good amount of hours but you still feel un-rested when you wake, most of us can report problems with sleep at some point in our lives. The fast pace of this electronic driven world we live in today is without a doubt the main contributor to this issue. Sleep is an essential function for the human machine to perform and improve in the gym and out of the gym. We do what we can during the day to see and feel the changes we want out of our bodies with nutrition and exercise. But for the results of our efforts to fully show themselves we must have sleep. However, evidence has shown that people living in western countries are sleeping on average 1 ½ to 2 hours less a night than we did a century ago. In many cases whether we like it or not, this is hard to avoid with people working late nights and early mornings. That said, even if we cannot always control the amount of sleep we get, we can develop habits and routines to increase the quality of our sleep. Start with these 3 tips:
#1. Avoid Screens before Bed
If you’ve heard even one strategy to sleep better this is likely the one you’ve heard. This is for good reason. The world we live in now gives us almost constant exposure to electronics. Whether it be your smartphone, computers at work, or television at the end of the day, we’re more often than not exposed to blue light. Blue light being the artificial light that is emitted from these devices. Exposure to this light before bed suppresses your body’s release of the hormone melatonin, whose function is to regulate your circadian rhythm (wake/sleep cycle). As you can imagine, even if you fall asleep after or possibly while being exposed to blue light, the sleep will be low quality and lack the deep, restorative sleep we need to recover physically and mentally. To avoid the effects blue light can have on your sleep it is best to cut out electronics 90 minutes before going to sleep. You can accomplish this by just jumping to the 90 minute cut-off, or you can start at a 30 minute cut-off and slowly progress to 60 minutes, and then to 90. Fill this cut-off time before bed with other things that you might not have thought to do before. Read a book on a topic that interests you, spend uninterrupted time with your significant other or family etc. The choice is yours.
#2. Get to Sleep at the Right Time
This tip is probably not what you think. I don’t recommend this so you can get more sleep. More sleep is great but we are looking to improve the quality of your sleep no matter how much you can get. Our bodies experience a significant release of hormones between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. These hormones such as HGH (human growth hormone) give us the restorative benefits of sleep. However, if you aren’t asleep in time for these hormones to be secreted, you may experience this as a second wind of energy that will make it a challenge to fall asleep for a short period of time. As you can see being in bed and asleep before or by 10 p.m. would be ideal and likely give you some amazing health and performance benefits. Although, if you are like most people, “ideal” doesn’t always fit your schedule. You may have obligations that keep you from getting to bed by this time and that’s okay. If you can’t go to sleep till 11 p.m. do that. If you can’t go to sleep till midnight, do that. Do the best you can with your schedule. Just understand that the less sleep you get in that zone from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. the less you may feel the rejuvenating effects from your sleep. Now for those of you that are night owls but have the option of getting to bed earlier, just slowly cut back your bedtime by even 30 minutes every week till you reach an ideal and healthy bedtime.
#3. Create Your Sleep Sanctuary
If you put the first two tips into practice and quality sleep becomes a priority to you, making your bedroom a perfect environment for sleep is probably the next thing you should consider. There are many small things you can do to accomplish this. Start by identifying things that may be compromising your sleep. For instance, if you live in a highly populated area where lights from businesses and traffic can seep through your windows at all times, investing in some black-out curtains would be very useful. On the other end of the spectrum, if you live in the middle of nowhere where it’s very quiet at night, maybe a little too quiet for your liking, the use of peaceful music or sounds (such as rain or ocean sounds) may help. The whole point of this tip is to make your room a place your brain associates with sleep. Our brains are always looking for patterns to take ahold of. So to go back to electronics, if the pattern you’ve created is to go into your room at night and turn on your television, or to crack open your laptop and start doing more work, it is likely your brain doesn’t associate your bedroom with sleep. It’s time to break that pattern. If you can’t stay off electronics, it might be a good idea to start removing them from your bedroom. You can still be on electronics 90 minutes before bed, but if your sleep is important to you, try to be on them somewhere else.
In most cases, sleep is the most overlooked part of people’s health. Understandably, it’s not the most exciting thing to talk about. Everyone wants to talk about the efforts they can make with diet and exercise. Who would think the missing piece might be to get better at doing absolutely nothing? If you feel it’s the missing piece for you, start implementing these simple tips. I hope it gets you closer to your goals.
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