They say that humans are the only animals that sleep when they want to be awake and wake up when they want to be asleep. Most physical recovery, however, happens during this crucial downtime. Your physical progress is determined by your bodyâ€™s ability to recover. The more efficiently your body can recover from exercise, the greater the impact that the same amount of exercise will have on increasing fitness levels and reaching your fat loss or muscle building goals.
Chances are pretty high that you already know how important sleep is for your health, but a YouGov survey found that only 1 in every 7 people wake up feeling refreshed on a daily basis. They also explain that poor quality sleep is the most common cause of overall fatigue. The higher your fatigue levels, the less likely you are to exercise every day and the less effort your body will be able to pour into the workouts that you actually end up doing.
People struggle to get enough restorative sleep for a variety of reasons. They either donâ€™t allow their bodies enough time for sleep or the quality of sleep that they do get is too low for sufficient recovery. 6 Hours of high quality sleep is better than 8 hours of low quality sleep. Here are some of the easiest ways to get better sleep:
Avoid mental stimulation
Avoid using your phone and other electronics like your laptop or television set for at least an hour before bed. These electronics emit a blue light that make your brain think that itâ€™s still daytime. It takes time for the brain to switch from being awake to being sleepy. You might consciously know that it is time to sleep, but your subconscious brain is still stuck in the wrong time of day. This will cause you to take longer to fall asleep and decrease your quality of overall sleep. When you fall asleep while your brain thinks that it is still day time, it limits the quality of sleep so that you can awaken quickly if there is any danger. By giving your eyes a break from electronic stimulation, they can relax and allow your focus levels to drop. When your brain knows when it is time to sleep, sleep quality rises.
What to do instead
This time should be used to do something relaxing that releases mental tension. Stress reduces rest and recovery ability because your brain is anticipating physical danger. Our brains canâ€™t transition from high alert to restfulness immediately. It needs an intermediary period to do this and many people lose out on sleep time because their brains still need to catch up. This explains why so many people struggle to fall asleep when they finally put down their phones while lying in bed. Effectively transferring your brain from high activity to low activity before sleep will teach it when to be alert and when to recover. When activity time vs recovery time is out of sync, our brains are trying to fight while we are trying to rest. They then become burnt out from their misplaced efforts when we need them to work. Teach your brain when to relax and when to power up. One of the best ways to do this is by allowing yourself to enter into a relaxing state before you sleep.
Relaxing activities before sleep can be a peaceful hobby that you enjoy like painting, writing (pen and paper) or reading (my favorite). This disarms your mind and lets it settle down. Unfortunately, we canâ€™t switch them off as fast as our computers.
Follow the same routine every night
When you do the same thing every night, your mind knows when to start calming down to prepare for sleep. If you do the same thing before bed that you do throughout the day (like scrolling through your social media timeline), your brain does not know when it needs to prepare for sleep. Before the use of the candle or light bulb, the gradual change from light to dark was enough to signal the change of day. It takes a lot more for the brain to switch between alertness and sleep than we realize. Think about how long it takes for you to feel fully awake after a good night of sleep. If your brain only gets the signal to sleep when you switch off the lights and lie in your bed, it needs to catch up by releasing the chemicals that should have already started having an effect on the rest of your body. Your heart rate needs to drop, along with your core body temperature. Your breathing needs to slow down and your subconscious needs to feel like the day is complete.
Sleep at the same time every day
Your bodyâ€™s internal sleep clock is referred to as the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is responsible for cycling your body between phases of sleep and wakefulness. When you sleep at the same time every day, your body knows when to release sleep hormones like melatonin to prepare for sleep or when to increase energy levels by releasing hormones like glucagon, which is responsible for releasing energy via fatty acids and glycogen (sugar). Varying sleep times by as little as a single hour can throw this daily cycle off track.
Improve the place that you sleep in
Keep your room dark and quite. Make it feel as peaceful and relaxing as possible. Eliminate as much noise as you can â€“ or look into using white noise to neutralize the noises that you canâ€™t control. Use your bed for only two things: sex and sleep. If you binge watch series while lying on your bed, your brain will associate this area with entertainment instead of sleep. The less you do on your bed, the greater the mental association between your bed and sleep.
By avoiding mental stimulation and doing something relaxing before you sleep every night, you can greatly increase the quality of your sleep. You should feel the difference as soon as the next day and your next workout will thank you. Sleep tight!