Better Sleep Makes Everything…Better
Let’s be real. Prioritizing sleep is tough.
Work, spending time with loved ones at the end of a busy day and your never-ending to-do list makes it easy to put better sleep on the back burner.
Then, you get in bed late and draggggg yourself out of bed in the morning after pushing “snooze” one too many times.
If you’re like me, hearing “you should get more sleep. It is good for you!” doesn’t motivate you to prioritize it.
You need to know exactly how and why sleep positively impacts your health and performance before creating systems in your life to optimize it.
That is what I’m here for. Then, when you finally do feel the difference it makes, you’ll want to keep it a priority.
Better Sleep Means Better Workout Recovery
How much sleep do you need anyway?
No matter who you are, getting between eight and nine hours is a great goal. As an athlete (yes – this includes you if you’re workin’ out on the reg!) sleep becomes even MORE important.
Studies show that your body releases the highest percentages of GH (growth hormone) while you sleep which aids in recovery and muscle building. In other words, more sleep generally means that your body recovers better so you can get stronger, faster. Don’t worry – this is natural GH not get-you-kicked-out-of-sporting-events kind of GH.
Chronically living in a sleep deficit may also…
- Increase inflammation in your body (aka, decreased recovery)
- Impair cognitive & immune function (aka, decreased recovery…again!)
- Decrease your tolerance to carbohydrates (aka, your body doesn’t use the carbs you give it as effectively as possible which can hinder performance and recovery)
- Decrease the oxygen capacity in your lungs mid-workout and increase lactic acid build-up rates (aka, your workouts get harder, faster)
No thanks to all of that, right?
Sleep and Weight Loss or Gain
If maximizing your performance isn’t a concern and you’re mainly focused on weight loss or weight gain sleep will also help you get there.
Keep in mind that when you have energy to push harder in your workouts and recover well, you’ll burn more calories and build more muscle. When you have more muscle, your body burns more fat at rest since muscle tissue takes energy (aka – calories!) to maintain.
More energy also causes you to naturally increase in your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). NEAT includes all movement outside of formal exercise. Parking farther from the grocery store door, fiddling with your pen, tapping your foot or sitting a little straighter in your chair all count… these small movements add up to be your biggest factor in total daily calorie burn.
Chronically living in a sleep deficit may also…
- Increase hunger and food cravings by increasing your hunger hormone, ghrelin, and decreasing your fullness hormone, leptin (aka you’re more tempted to overeat)
- Impair digestion and gut health (aka decreased nutrient absorption)
- Interrupt hormone function and balance. When your hormones are unhappy, this often impacts the way your body utilizes (and burns) different fuel sources (aka slower fat loss or muscle gain)
Okay, okay! You’re in, you’re convinced. Whether you want to improve performance or shift body composition (or both!) you’re down to give more sleep a shot. So, where do you start?
With tons of tips and tricks to improve sleep out there, what realistic things can you focus on?
Here are a few of my tried-and-true favorites:
- Shut down electronics at least half an hour before bed. The blue light from your phone, TV and/or computer impacts your body’s production of melatonin (your main sleep hormone).
- Get your phone OUT of your room. Not only does this decrease the likelihood that you’ll scroll before bed but you won’t be distracted or woken up by late-night texts or phone calls.
- Turn on the “night-shift” feature if you have to do work later at night (this includes your computer, too).
- Invest in a pair of ‘blue-light blocking’ glasses. I love EyeBuyDirect!
- Buy a sunrise alarm clock to help you wake up more naturally. This increases alertness and ensures you wake up when your body is ready to do so (vs. jolting you awake in your deeper levels of sleep).
- Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Studies show that more sunlight exposure before noon increases sleep quality and helps you fall asleep faster (remember to consult with a doc before adding any supplements to your routine!).
- Cut the caffeine after 12pm. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours so if you drink it through the afternoon, it can still be in your system when you’re trying to get to bed. Stay sharp – don’t forget that tea, soda, and even dark chocolate contain caffeine as well.
- Exercise is huge when it comes to using up energy so you’re tired and ready to hit the sheets when bedtime comes around.
- Stick to the same sleep schedule as much as possible – even on weekends.
- Get your core temp down by keeping your bedroom is nice and cool. Taking a cold shower can help here as well.
- Utilize a sleep mask and/or blackout curtains to keep your bedroom dark.
- Try a white noise machine/fan if you live near a busy road or other noises regularly keep you up.
- Finish up your last meal and drink at least an hour before bed and make sure it has a good balance of proteins, fats, and fibrous carbs. These will break down more slowly and keep blood sugar levels stable. Making sure to stop sippin’ on the earlier side will ensure that you’re not getting up to pee.
- Wear real pajamas. Your brain will learn to associate seemingly unrelated things over time. If you sleep in your workout clothes, you’ll have more trouble falling asleep since you’re USED to being awake and experiencing adrenaline spikes in your tank and shorts. Teach your brain to associate pajamas with winding down and treat yourself to a PJ set.
- Keep lights off/low if you get up in the middle of the night so you don’t kick your brain into “wake up” mode.
- Keep a journal next to your bed and do a brain dump (worries, to-do list or things you’re grateful for) if your mind is buzzing!
- Identify ONE tip from the sections above (tech, daytime, and nighttime) that you’re already doing well. See, you’re already more on it than you think;)
- Identify ONE tip from each section that you can add to your routine this week.
- Download and print the HTYMP WEEKLY SLEEP TRACKER, set your goals for the week and see how you do. Try this for a full month and see if you can increase your overall sleep average by at least 20 minutes.
- Start small by challenging yourself to get in bed 10 minutes earlier than normal every day this week (starting tonight!)
- Download the tech, daytime and nighttime tips to your phone or computer so you can reference them whenever needed.
I can’t wait to hear what you think and how you feel as you prioritize those ZZZ’s.