Most of us know how important sleep is for our health. But do you know how important it really is for our digestion, thinking, performance…even body composition…oh yea, and our sanity? But we get it, even if you read all the sleeping tips in the world, the moment your head hits the pillow, you just can’t seem to fall asleep. You’re not alone.
Find out why getting your Zzz’s is so important, especially as an athlete, and some quick and easy sleeping tips to help you fall asleep…and stay asleep.
Sleep, Your Most Powerful (and Legal) Performance Enhancer
If your nutrition and training are on point, but you still don’t perform or look the way you want, poor sleep habits may be to blame. You better believe it, sleep is the most powerful recovery aid out there. And it’s legal.
In fact, research even shows that physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep can dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise. And those who sleep less than 6 hours per night (or, surprisingly, more than 9 hours) gain almost twice as much weight over a 6-year period as those who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night.
Not surprisingly, more than ⅓ of adults get fewer than the amount of sleep they need to keep their risk of health problems in check. So, what’s that magical baseline number?
Adults need 7 hours of sleep a night- minimum. You need more if you’re training hard in the gym or sick.
Sleep and Body Composition
There’s no question that a lack of sleep causes havoc in your body. When you’re more rested, you’ll be more successful if your goal is to stay lean and recover better so you can perform stronger.
Research shows that sleep deprivation can create insulin resistance and reduce insulin sensitivity in subcutaneous fat cells, which play a key role in energy metabolism and balance.
Poor sleep habits drain our energy (and our mojo) and screw up the regulation of our hormones. It’s no coincidence that we’re hungrier when we’re tired. That’s because those hunger-regulating hormones that tell us to eat more, go up (ghrelin) and the precious ones that tell us when we’ve had enough, go down (leptin).
A lack of sleep also alters the activity of our hypothalamus, resulting in increased cortisol. Higher cortisol levels have been shown to increase appetite in some people, and can even increase fat storage.
In other words, develop good sleep habits to help your body and mind recover. In turn, it will help us in our efforts to stay lean, perform stronger, stay happy, focus longer and stay healthy.
Sleeping Tips that Work
The good news is that research shows that returning to adequate sleep (7+ hours) can quickly reduce any of the above risks.
So how do we go about getting that performance-enhancing, mojo-regenerating, energy-filling shut-eye?
Try one of these quick sleeping tips tonight!
1. Create Your Own Sleep Routine
We need time to transition from the day to the night. Create environmental cues to help you wind down and de-stress at night. Sip herbal tea, stretch or roll, take a bath, read, meditate, sit outside… you get the idea.
2. Be Consistent with Your Sleep Schedule
Whenever possible, aim to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day/night. I know that’s tough for those with a strong social-game, but the more consistent you are, the more your body will naturally release those calming hormones before your head hits the pillow making that whole falling-asleep process much easier. Plus, a schedule helps to stimulate those necessary hormones that help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to attack the day.
3. Moderate Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
Even though a nightcap may sound relaxing, consuming more than 1-2 drinks at night will interfere with deep, restorative sleep. Same goes for caffeine after 2 p.m.
4. Eat Properly
Eating too large of a meal right before you hit the sack can interfere your ability to fall and stay asleep. Your best bet? Eat a balance of protein, carbs and fats and walk away from your plate feeling satisfied, not stuffed, at dinner. Oh, and steer clear of those heavy late night mindless snacks.
5. Stop Bugging Out
We’ve all been there, your brain is wired and running through all the unchecked to-do’s on your list. The more you think about the fact that you cannot fall asleep, the more you lay there staring at the clock. Instead, grab a paper or create a voice-to-text note to write out whatever’s bugging you out. Dump whatever’s on your mind so you can finally relax.
6. Turn Off Electronics
Your phone, your computer, your TV: turn them off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The light from a digital device stimulates our brain and interferes with melatonin production making it harder for us to fall asleep and, you guessed it, stay asleep.
7. Set a Bedtime Alarm
Seriously, set yourself an alarm to turn off your devices and start unwinding. Then, set another reminder alarm to head to bed. This will help to snap you out of whatever social channel you’re scrolling through and put the focus back on you, your pillow, and your health.
8. Make the Room Dark and Cool
A dark room will help you to maximize melatonin production. So close the blinds, unplug the hallway night light and flip your smartphone screen face down. Additionally, research shows that most of us sleep better when it’s cool (about 67 F). Set the thermostat to automatically drop a few degrees after bedtime.
It’s time to get real about the health risks of poor sleep.
Give one of the above sleeping tips a try tonight and start working your way to those 7+ hours of sleep. When you do, you’ll find that you can ward off stress easier, keep illnesses away, maximize performance & recovery and keep your mojo alive, too!
How do you wind down after a busy day? What’s your favorite pre-sleep hack?
Check out our series on sleep for more information:
- Sleep 101: How much sleep do you really need?
- Sleep 101: Should you still workout if you haven’t slept well?
- Sleep 101: Can you repay “sleep debt?”
- Sleep 101: How do cell phones mess with sleep?
- Sleep 101: How does (a lack of) sleep impact performance?
- Sleeping Tips for Athletes
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