Whether your goal is to lose weight or not, getting a good quantity of quality sleep is important for everyone!
In recent years, it seems to have become more and more fashionable to be able to proclaim on social media that you get up at 5am or 4am to work out and start your day, that you only sleep 4 hours a day or you don’t sleep at all!
Let’s get real folks, this is not a good idea, AT ALL!
The human species is simply not designed for optimal nighttime performance, if we were, we’d have evolved over time to have night vision, heightened smell and hearing like other nocturnal animals!
What we do have are clear accounts of there being more accidents like car accidents and even super disasters like Chernobyl occurring due to human error, in the nighttime, when we generally function less optimally!
Now while I consider myself a night owl, I still ensure I get adequate sleep, even if I’m just going to bed when The Rock is waking up!
The list of health issues relating to poor sleep is growing almost every day:
· Weight gain & increased risk of obesity
· Increased risk of diabetes
· Increased risk of dementia
· Increased risk of anxiety and depression
· Increased risk of heart attack
· Increased risk of heart failure
· Increased risk of stroke
· Increased risk of cancer
· Weakened immune system
· Dark eye circles, wrinkles and negative aesthetic changes
· Poor recovery from exercise and training with increased risk of injury
· Reduced sex drive
· Low energy
Do you have enough reasons yet to make sleep a priority?
I’ve noticed firsthand that the days I don’t get quality sleep are the days I struggle most to keep my diet and nutrition on point, I get hungry really quickly and feel exhausted, these are the days I’m most likely to have a cheat meal or skip training altogether!
It goes without saying, when you’re sleeping, you’re not eating, so it’s one of the most important things you can do to help yourself if you’re on a weight loss journey!
So here are a few tips to improve your sleep hygiene and get yourself back on track to sleepy land!
Sleep when you’re tired!
Sounds like common sense but many actually go to bed at a time they feel they should rather than when they actually feel sleepy.
The consequences are that they might end up lying in bed unable to sleep, worrying they can’t sleep, tossing and turning, then wake up feeling exhausted the next day.
Listen to your body, if you feel sleepy, that’s the time to sleep!
The converse is also true! If you feel sleepy, around 10 to 11pm for most of us, go to bed! If you don’t, you’ll spike your cortisol stress hormone which may keep you awake for hours and stop you from being able to sleep later even if you want to!
If you are able to sleep at the same time every day, that can be a good thing, allowing your body to learn and adjust your circadian rhythm, your sleep cycle accordingly.
This is the premise for jetlag and why it can be difficult to sleep when you travel to a different time zone.
One way to try and combat this would be to try sleeping earlier or later than usual, closer to your destination time zone, in the days before your travel, so you start your bodies adaptation process early to minimize the impact it has on your trip (especially if you’re visiting Disneyland)!
Shhhhh… Be Quiet!
Try to ensure your sleeping environment is as quiet as possible.
Many feel like they can sleep better when there is the calming sound of rain outside. If that includes you, a white noise machine may help you to doze off or you can even try sound blocking ear buds.
Keep it dark!
It’s now a well-known fact that blue light pollution from LED lights and everyday household items can significantly affect our sleep cycles, mimicking the types of light emitted by the sun, tricking you into thinking it might still be daytime.
While there are blue light blocking glasses and settings you can adjust on your phone, in the hours before bedtime, it’s best to minimize your screen time, avoid using your phone and watching TV, reading on your tablet, as they all emit that harsh, eye opening and sleep disturbing, blue light! If possible, turn your phone off when you go to bed.
In the bedroom itself, blackout curtains might be a good investment to prevent streetlight from coming in and ruining your slumber!
Your body is smarter than you think and by developing certain routines, rituals and practices, you signal that you’re about to do something.
One to two hours before sleep, develop some downtime practices, engage in less exciting activities, preparing your body and mind for some quality sleep.
Bedtime is not the time to solve your life’s problems, if necessary, make a list of tasks for the next day so you don’t worry about them when you’re trying to sleep.
Wind down physically, emotionally and mentally. You can use calming music, soothing sights and smells if it helps you.
Many years ago, I helped to treat a young student who just couldn’t sleep no matter what we did and it was only after a home visit that we discovered the issue.
He had numerous games consoles in his room, a giant TV, lots of DVDs and CDs, an area where his friends could sit and hang out, his entire room was setup and geared towards entertainment!
By having his bedroom setup this way, it wasn’t possible for his brain to switch off and sleep calmly, instead his mind was active and ready for more entertainment and excitement, paving the way to insomnia.
After moving to a different bedroom without the games consoles, TV, sound system and the other stuff he’d entertain his friends with, it was as if we’d discovered a miracle cure, he was finally able to sleep soundly after so many years!
Make the bedroom a place of rest and relaxation.
It’s worth investing in a good mattress and pillows but make sure you use your bed only for sleep and sex.
Too Hot To Handle
There’s evidence to suggest a cooler bedroom, anywhere between 15 to 22 degrees centigrade, makes for a better night’s sleep with people often reporting disturbed sleep in the summer months when their bodies may not be able to auto-regulate their temperatures as effectively.
Can’t Sleep – Don’t Sleep!
If you find yourself waking early or still can’t sleep, don’t just lie there in bed worrying and don’t look at the clock.
Instead, get up, maybe have a warm glass of milk and consider reading a real magazine or book until you’re feeling calm, tired and ready to try sleeping again. Remember to avoid reading anything too exciting and avoid reading on your phone or tablet as the blue light might make it harder still for you to doze off.
Some can be very sensitive to things like caffeine, even from coke, tea and pre-workout drinks, so if you’re having difficulty sleeping, start cutting back on these, avoid taking them after 2pm or stop taking them completely.
While many think alcohol is a good sleeping aid and it can indeed help you fall asleep, alcohol actually makes it harder to stay asleep and go into the deep sleep needed to feel refreshed and recharged the next day.
Similarly, while you might feel sleepy after eating, if you have a meal which is too heavy in the 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, it can affect your ability to sleep soundly, taxing your body systems when everything should be recharging and resting while also increasing the risk of gastric problems like acid reflux.
While a lack of sleep can leave you exhausted and wanting to avoid exercise, a good workout can help to boost your energy temporarily and make you more tired later, making it easier to fall asleep come bedtime.
Avoid working out in the three-hour window before your bedtime as the energy high after exercise may stop you from sleeping.
To Nap or Not To Nap?
While there is some evidence to suggest power naps can be useful if you’re really sleep deprived, I personally find that I struggle sleeping at night if I’ve had a nap in the day.
If you’re coming off shift work or had your sleep patterns disrupted somehow, try to avoid the temptation to have a power nap and stay awake until your bedtime. Chances are this will allow you to sleep much more soundly at bedtime and help you to reset your circadian rhythm accordingly.
Don’t Sleep Like A Baby!
We don’t know where this popular phrase was coined but if you’re having difficulty sleeping, try our tips and tactics and we hope you’ll be able to sleep much more soundly than any baby ever does!
A good night’s sleep is going to pave the way to good health, keep your appetite in check and help you stay on track to your fitness goals!
Night night and sweet dreams friends!
Dr. Bobby Stryker