This is in important question I ask our community as we enter our annual 10 week Health and Fitness Challenge. Of course training and nutrition, as we all know, has a major impact on our health. But we like to go deeper than that and talk about other factors, such as recovery, hydration, stress and SLEEP. These factors seem to fly under the radar and are completely underestimated when referring to our health.
Just like setting up for a squat, or a snatch, or even a push up, whatever the movement is, how we start has a big impact on the end result, and how we move between those two points. So consider our movements throughout the day. How we start the day has a big influence on what happens during the day. Energy levels, productivity, mood, clarity, decision making, and the list goes on.
In the case of sleep, how you wake up and therefore start your day, is affected significantly by a number of factors. These include:
- Amount of sleep
- Quality of sleep
- How we are woken up
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours per night. Unfortunately, a significant number of us do not get this amount of sleep on a daily basis. With some discipline, this is one area where improvements can be made immediately. Here are some tips to get more sleep:
- Stick to a sleep schedule which enables you to achieve the recommended amount of sleep. That may mean having to go to bed earlier, but your body and mind will benefit greatly from this change.
- If falling asleep at an earlier time is an issue for you…..
- Avoid having naps during the day, especially in the afternoon.
- Try incorporating a relaxing activity into your night time activity. Examples include reading a book, meditating, practicing relaxing breathing techniques, or even using an app such as mindfulness to unwind.
Quality of sleep can be a little harder to measure, but good quality sleep is actually more under your control than you people think. Here are some things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep:
- Ensure where you sleep promotes good sleep. A quiet, dark, and cool environment is most conducive to good sleep. Use light blackout curtains or shades to make your room dark. If this is not possible, invest in a comfortable eye mask to block out light.
- Reduce the noise: This can sometimes be difficult but a good pair of ear plugs will make a big difference.
- Take it easy on the caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that helps keep you awake and make you more alert- the opposite of what we are trying to do here. Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before going to bed.
- Avoid stimulating or stressful activities which cause spikes in Cortisol, the stress hormone. This includes doing work, discussing emotional issues, or having arguments right before you try to sleep. It also includes staring at your phone while you scroll through facebook and Instagram.
The last area where we can make some improvements is how we wake up. In the perfect world, being woken up without an alarm clock, to natural light would be fantastic. But, we don’t all have that luxury, or at least haven’t developed such an efficient sleeping pattern. Alternatively, most of us rely on the good old SNOOZE button. What many people are unaware of is the fact that being woken up by an alarm stimulates our “Fight or Flight” response. Snoozing several times each day isn’t doing your body any favours. Try to only use the snooze button once, if at all!
So, all of that condensed into some simple strategies:
- Go to bed earlier
- Improve your sleeping environment
- Avoid using electronic devices before bed
- Avoid caffeine at night and before bed
- Incorporate a relaxing / unwinding activity before bed
- Apart from the odd power nap, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
- Only use the snooze button once, if at all!
Put some of these, if not all into practice, and you will wake up fresh and ready to attack each day.