There are many people who exercise intensely, day after day, in hopes of transforming their bodies. There are many athletes who spend countless hours practicing with dreams of reaching the pinnacle of their sport. Though their intentions are noble, not everyone achieves success. The deciding factor between excellence and average is attention to detail. I wanted to write a blog series on improving your rate of success by focusing on the details that drastically effect your training and performance, but are often overlooked. The third topic I’m going to discuss is sleep.
Sleep is the most important factor affecting your health, fitness, and performance. Sleep is critical for proper hormone levels, mental health, recovery, healthy body composition, and much more. Throughout my career, I’ve seen some miraculous transformations and astonishing increases in performance from clients/athletes that have simply started sleeping better. Below are some simple strategies you can utilize to improve your sleep quality.
Establish a Routine: Create a bedtime routine that helps you unwind at least 1 hour before it is time to go to sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends.
Limit Bright Light: Turn off all electronics (TV, computer, smart phone, tablet, etc.) and dim the lights 1 hour before bed. Bright lights inhibit the release of melatonin, a sleep hormone that causes drowsiness.
Clear Your Mind: Stress and worry can stimulate the brain, making it difficult to sleep. Keep a pen and paper by your bed to write down anything occupying your mind so it can be dealt with tomorrow instead of dwelt on all night long.
Relaxation: Deep diaphragmatic breathing triggers the vagus nerve to relax the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn slows down heartrate and releases calming hormones.
Sleep Environment: Create a sleep environment that is quiet, cool, dark, and comfortable. Ear plugs and eye covers help when traveling.
Avoid Stimulation: Vigorous exercise, caffeine, and alcohol should be avoided 2-6 hours before bedtime. Try calming essential oils, chamomile tea, and taking it easy. If you like to read, avoid books, magazines, and newspapers that might overstimulate your mind or provoke anger and anxiety. Read something positive and light for pleasure to help you unwind.
Seek Medical Help: If you are following the above advice and are not waking up rested, you may have an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed. Seek out a sleep specialist if you have problems going to sleep, staying asleep, snore, toss and turn, and/or wake up very tired regularly.
Stay tuned for the next installment coming soon! Remember, you get One Body, you get One Life, Care For It!