Sleep is quite possibly the most important component of your fitness routine and yet it is often the most overlooked. In some circles, a lack of sleep is worn like a badge of honor. Some proudly proclaim that they “routinely average 5 hours of sleep per night,” or even less and still manage to do everything that they need to in a day. If those people are looking to impress others with how much time they are awake, then yes it is impressive they haven’t burned out yet, but all they are doing is destroying their personal health in the process. Sleep is important for a multitude of reasons–equally important to your body as breathing, eating and drinking water. It boosts your immune system while decreasing anxiety and depression. It allows for our brains to process memories and our bodies to repair themselves. According to John DeLucchi, PT, DPT, SCS: “If you want to upgrade your athleticism, decrease your risk of injury, decrease persistent pain, recover faster, boost your immune system, have more energy and perform better, sleep is critical.”
Sometimes we as humans forget just how impressive our body is at taking care of itself. Sleep is one of those attributes we are pre-programmed with that literally heals our body without the need for any further assistance. You may run six days per week or lift for an hour per day, but without allowing the recovery gained from 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, much of that effort will be wasted and your full potential will never be unlocked.
According to sleep.org, during sleep an essential growth hormone is secreted to build muscle and improve athletic performance. Studies have also shown that athletes who sleep more per night are faster, more accurate and have better endurance, while those that chronically undersleep see a sharp decline both physically and cognitively (https://www.sleep.org/how-sleep-adds-muscle/).
Do you often have difficulty getting to sleep? Here are some surefire tips to help you reach your 7 to 9 hours and perform at your best:
Do you stare at a screen all day and into the evening? Between the blue light emanating from devices and the constant alertness of scrolling through a phone or working on a laptop, it’s almost impossible for your mind to relax into sleep. Many people are glued to their phones late into the evening and then assume they can go right to bed. Try putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb,” at a set time each night and deploy blue light filters in your device settings–most phones, tablets and computers have this option available. Also, a great alternative to watching TV at night that helps people fall asleep quickly is reading in bed.
2) Cut the caffeine:
Some people drink coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages like soda and energy drinks throughout the entire day. According to Livestrong.com, caffeine from a beverage can stay in your system as long as 10 hours past consumption (https://www.livestrong.com/article/272782-how-long-does-coffee-caffeine-stay-in-your-system/). If you have tea at 2pm or a soda with dinner, you’ll likely stay awake much later into the night. A great way to still get the benefit of caffeine without the lack of sleep is to limit your intake of caffeinated beverages to the AM only. If you need an afternoon pick me up, try ingesting it before noon and it will carry you through the day without the risk of cutting into your sleep.
3) Try organic sleep aids:
Instead of taking pharmaceuticals to fall asleep, why not drift into a more natural sleep with some tried and tested organic supplements that have been in practice for generations. Non-caffeinated teas like chamomile are proven to help you unwind and prepare for bedtime. Additionally, lavender sprays and lotions are also effective at calming your mind for sleep. If you feel that you need a little more than chamomile or lavender, melatonin is a natural supplement that will do the trick, but be sure to not exceed the recommended 5mg dosage and try to not take it for multiple nights in a row or else you may experience an adverse reaction which will keep you awake.
4) Cool down:
Do you make an active effort to wind down each day and set the right mindset for quality sleep but still can’t seem to get it? You may not even realize it, but you could be a warm sleeper. The ideal air temperature for quality sleep is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. If you find even after setting the thermostat lower that you can’t relax, look into getting a cooling blanket and/or pillow to keep you running less like a furnace through the night.
You know we love meditation at Captyn. If you’re looking for a simple daily practice that will lead to better sleep, try getting into a routine practice of meditation. Meditating just 5 minutes per day in the morning or right before bed will lead to much more restful sleep and less stress and anxiety throughout the day. If you aren’t sure how to get started with this mindful practice, check out our extensive blog post on the subject for ideas and techniques to meditate effectively: https://www.captyn.com/tackle-your-stress-in-just-5-minutes-a-day/.