I spend a lot of time writing about the importance of moving and telling you how it improves your energy, overall health and vitality.
And it is so important to get off our butts (do it now, I say — stand up and move around!) and engage in vigorous exercise (which really only needs to be done 3-4 times a week for maximum effectiveness). In fact, working out too much is not good for you, especially if you are skipping the most important part of your workout, the recovery phase.
I have discussed numerous options for improving your recovery time, the 3 most important of which are: getting optimal nutrition (including what you eat before, during and after your workouts), minimizing stress and maximizing your sleep.
When it comes to sleep, I am realizing it may be one of the most challenging physical activities in which to achieve success. Why? Because some believe it’s a waste of time. Some believe we don’t need as much as they tell us we do…and some just struggle with getting good, quality sleep.
So here are a few thoughts on the subject of sleep, because I believe what Robert Ludlum wrote about sleep in “The Bourne Identity”: “Sleep is a weapon!” I like that point of view and you know what? It is a weapon!
WHY SLEEP IS SO IMPORTANT
What are the major benefits you actually derive from sleeping well? According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep is vital for good health and well-being. Adequate sleep is important for appetite and weight management — a key to preventing many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Your body and brain repair themselves when you sleep. Did you know that your brain actually has time to think through problems and organize thoughts while you are sleeping? Sleep enhances the benefits of exercising and minimizes the effects of aging (so they all work together—cool, right?)
Did you know that more than 35 percent of adults report getting less than 7 hours a sleep a night? People who don’t get sufficient sleep are at greater risk for chronic health problems, as well as to cancer, increased mortality and reduced quality of life.
HOW TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP
I believe many people know they should strive for more and a better quality of sleep, so why can’t they? Here are few ideas to help you hack your sleep:
- Stress is a major contributor to disrupted sleep. It’s a good idea to come up with ways to reduce stress both during the day as well as prior to bedtime. Here are a few ideas:
- Write in a journal: get your fears, frustrations and thoughts all down on paper and out of your head. This will help quiet down your brain.
- Create a sleep ritual for yourself (and your family)
- Pick a time (same time every night if possible) where you start preparing for bed. Learn to quiet the house down at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday can create an optimal sleep routine (such as a 10pm bedtime and a 6am wake up time.) Stick to your routine even on the weekends.
- Turn down the lights in the house. This includes turning off the TV and all personal electronics (KIDS TOO) – no email, phone calls or text messages.
- Cool down the house. Lowering room temperature has shown to improve your quality of sleep.
- Light a candle with a relaxing scent and / or play some quiet relaxing music that helps you unwind. Find a routine that helps you decrease stress.
- Read a book that has nothing to do with work or anything that may create more stress.
- Avoid caffeine after 3pm each day. Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 8 hours and impact your sleep.
- Sleep in a pitch-black room. Make it as dark as you can possibly make it. Block all the light sources you can.
- Take a Melatonin supplement (ask your about this doctor) which may help you get to sleep faster, but does not impact your ability to wake up or be alert.
- Create a TO-DO list for the next day. I like to do this and I do it earlier in the evening as a way to say “I am done for the day!” Do a quick review of the day. The WRAP UP I call it:
- G – What am I grateful for today?
- D – What did I do today (good for me!)?
- D – What am I going to do tomorrow (most important items only)?
- A – What or who do I appreciate in my life (did I let them know it)?
Better sleep will help you look and feel better. And if you struggle with getting the right QUANTITY of sleep, at least start to create ways to get a better QUALITY of sleep. There are always naps. Who doesn’t love a good power nap?
I have included a few more resources in my email.
Phil Dozois, Owner, Breakthru Fitness