The A to ZZZZZ of Sleep!
It’s standard knowledge that we need to eat right and exercise to be fit and healthy – well, at least I hope that is standard knowledge now to all of you on here!
However, there is a third major part to the equation……. sleep!
Many of us struggle to sleep well, and wake up feeling tired and unenergised.
This almost always has a knock on effect to our daily performance.
That’s why we need to start having ‘good sleep’, and this is what I’m going to provide you with the tools to achieve today.
Sound good? Then stick with me!
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP:
Good sleep is necessary for so many reasons that it is hard to list them all – I’ll mention some of the key ones below:
- Regularly sleeping well has been shown to boost the immune system, allowing you to beat off bugs and viruses that may be going around.
- It can reduce the risk of mental issues, such as depression and anxiety.
- A lack of deep sleep has been linked with the onset type 2 diabetes, as the body needs to change its way of processing glucose to deal with the deprivation.
- Getting enough quality sleep has also been linked to higher fertility and a higher sex drive.
- Good sleep can also help prevent heart disease, by lowering blood pressure.
- Sleep helps you lose weight. Sleep deprivation reduces our leptin levels, which make us feel full. So when you lack good sleep you feel hungrier!
- Lack of sleep leads to lack of focus and irritability.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO YOU NEED?
You’ll usually hear anything from 6 to 9 hours as being the best – but it’s more subjective than this.
It goes without saying that if you feel tired you probably need more sleep.
However, regularly sleeping less than seven hours a night is associated with a long list of health problems.
Our age, genetics and lifestyle all come into play with sleep.
The general rule is only you can know the ‘right’ amount of sleep for you, but science tends to strongly suggest that more is more!
TECHNIQUES TO DETERMINE WHAT AMOUNT IS RIGHT FOR YOU:
- Perhaps the most effective things you can do is keep a sleep diary, where you write down the time you go to bed and the hour you wake up. Recording how many hours of sleep you get and how you felt upon waking will help you identify your needs. Over time a pattern will emerge. This can actually be a startling revelation to people!
- Remove your alarm clock for a period. Pick a week when you don’t have to be up at a set time, such as a holiday, and allow yourself to wake up naturally. Chances are you will sleep longer to begin with, as you catch up on missed hours, but as time goes by you will fall into a natural rhythm. You’ll be surprised at the extent to which you feel full of energy, vibrant and creative.
HOW TO GET BETTER SLEEP:
There are proven techniques and methods which if you put into place will see the quality of your sleep improve:
- Keep it cool! Studies show that cool bodies sleep better, which is why so many of us heat lovers have bad night sleeps. If you don’t like the idea of being cold in bed, why not have a bath right before. Apart from the obvious relaxing effects, once you get out your body will cool down more quickly, helping with the transition into deep sleep.
- Avoid screens for at least one hour before bed: Turning off all screens at least one hour before bed is one of the simplest (albeit, most challenging) things we can do to improve our sleep quality. The blue light on tv, phones and computers has the same effect on the brain as sunlight does. This means it will wake you up rather than helping you drift off.
- Make it a set habit: A lot of our problems regarding sleep begin because we have no consistency. As much as we sometimes hate it, we are creatures of habit and having a consistent sleeping routine will only benefit us (and our sanity) over the long run. To start getting good quality sleep, commit to going to bed at the same time every night. Do not sleep in when you have nothing planned to get up for. Avoid taking naps if you can help it, especially from mid-afternoon onwards. However, when you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to get your full determined hours of sleep, a nap can be just the solution!
- Morning Exercise: The benefits to working out in the morning are numerous but the effect it has on our sleep is one of the most important. Vigorous exercise in the evening, when we should be relaxing down and getting ready for bed, just isn’t right for good quality sleep. Where possible get up an hour early and hit the gym before the rest of your days starts.
- Darkness: Your body is programmed to fall asleep when it is dark so any form of light immediately beforehand can negatively affect our sleep. Allow only natural light in your bedroom. Shut your bedroom door, use special blinds and curtains to keep out third-party light sources and leave your devices in the other room.
- Calm your mind: We all experience times of overwhelm! They can range from work issues, family dramas and challenges in our relationships. On top of that, some of us (especially the very ambitious) are prone to crises in which we question where we are in life, what we want to achieve and the time span for doing it. Whilst these worries are normal, it can be greatly troubling not to be able to get these worries out of our mind whilst we lay awake through the early hours. This is me – is it you? If so I cannot recommend meditation highly enough. Start with 5-10 minutes a day and see the magic take hold!
The importance of sleep is now much more understood.
Your ability to create a good sleeping habit and get the amount of rest you need will be one of the huge determinants of your health and career success.
Are you going to make it good?
Ian David Worthington
Creator, Owner and Coach at GymWolfPT.com