Sleep is not the boring part between memorable moments. It’s what makes those moments possible. When you sleep, your body and mind regenerate from the stress of the day. And the need for sleep never goes away – especially if you’re pushing yourself creatively, professionally or athletically.
Not all heroes wear capes. But they all need sleep.
Did you know the average person may spend more than 26 years of their life sleeping? We say that’s 26 years well spent.
When it comes to working out, you know that what you do in the gym is important. But what you do outside the gym – what you eat, what you drink, and especially how you sleep, is just as crucial. In fact, you must sleep in order for exercise to actually work.
When we are exercising, it is for a purpose, wether it is for cardiovascular health, to increase lean mass or to improve endurance. All of these ‘goals’ require sleep.
In other words, without sleep, exercise does not deliver those benefits. If you don’t sleep, you undermine your body.
Sleep gives your body time to recover, conserve energy, and repair and build up the muscles worked during exercise. When we get enough good quality sleep, the body produces growth hormone. During childhood and adolescence, growth hormone makes us grow (as the name implies). As we get older growth hormone is essential, it helps us build lean muscle and helps our body repair when we have torn ourselves up during a hard workout. Growth hormone is essential for athletic recovery.
Can exercise help you sleep? Absolutely, exercise actually has a chemical effect on the brain that will make you feel sleepy. Physical activity creates more adenosine in the brain, and adenosine makes us feel sleepy.
Working out also helps you maintain your circadian rhythm (that is, your body’s internal clock). Exercise helps your body understand the schedule it’s on – and morning exercise primes your body to sleep better at night.
Getting enough restorative sleep helps you:
- Manage weight
- Stay healthier – longer
- Perform at your best
- Be more productive
- Avoid hangry mistakes
Sleeping better matters. While we can’t change the rules of life, we can start to control the factors that affect the length and quality of our sleep. Follow these guidelines for a set period – just a week or two to start, then track how you feel every morning and throughout your day.
The results will be a more effective, cognisant understanding of how you can empower yourself for a better night’s rest – and improved performance, both professionally and athletically.
Value your sleep as much you do your diet and physical fitness
When you become aware of your sleep and its importance, you’re more prepared to be able to optimise it.
Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends
Training ourselves to sleep along with our natural circadian rhythms will lead to better overall health and performance. Hint: Set an alarm for when it’s bedtime.
Stop using electronic devices one hour before you go to sleep
We live in an age where phones, laptops, and TVs are ubiquitous. Learning when to put them down before bedtime will leave us more rested in the morning. The content you are viewing can elevate your heart-rate and/or may cause stress (from work email, for example) and the high-intensity blue light emitted from electronics regulates your melatonin, the sleep hormone. So tune out early and take advantage of screen filters or special glasses that block blue light.
Do not eat heavy meals or drink alcohol within 2 hours of going to bed
These factors affect our resting heart rate and thus are a good way to push our sleep cycle out of whack.
Sleep in a dark and cool room
Shut off any light sources (including the glow from electronics) and use curtains to block external light until morning. Although not always possible, try to cool your bedroom down to (18.5C).
Only use your bedroom for sleeping and romance
Your sleep will improve if you refrain from using your bed for watching TV, talking on the phone, working on a laptop or doing homework. Your bed is definitely not a good place for eating.
30 minutes of daily activity, even if it’s light, can prepare you for a good night’s rest. Just don’t exercise too late – it will elevate your metabolism, which can make it more difficult fall asleep.
Cut caffeine after midday (2pm)
Experts have proven that the effects of a late afternoon cup of coffee can last much longer than perceived. So much so that it can cause restless sleep, even hours later.
Experiment with natural, non-drug sleep aids
What helps certain people sleep better than others is as different as our personalities. From new pillows and mattresses to white-noise machines, read up on the benefits of these tools and select those that help where you’re most challenged.
Over time, begin to recognise and remove other detractors from your sleep
Awareness and control over our environment – and sustaining this positive viewpoint of sleep’s importance – will continue to have lasting effects for you and your overall performance today and for your future.
Believe in the process and enjoy the journey.
Team 4D Fit