We live in a society where most people don’t get anywhere near enough sleep. Not only that, but the importance of sleep is often overlooked by most people. Most of the time when I meet with a new client, they usually seem to realise they have a poor diet, and that they don’t exercise enough. They also realise that these factors are hindering their progress toward results, which is why they seek my advice. However, sleep quality is another factor which is just as important as nutrition, and even more important than exercise in improving health, losing fat and gaining muscle. It doesn’t matter who you are, or the reason for your poor sleeping habits, you’re bound to have an extremely hard time achieving real results without proper sleep.
It’s no secret that generally speaking, in today’s world, we’re about a thousand times more stressed than our grandparents were. Our lives are ruled by meetings, deadlines, debt and countless other stressors, many of which contribute to our poor sleep schedule. Whether we have kids who won’t let us sleep, stay up too late on the computer (or television), or we’re simply too worried about the day’s events to be able to relax and fall asleep, the consequences of not getting enough sleep are not only detrimental to our results in the gym, but to our overall health.
As I like to explain to my clients, sleep is where all the “magic” happens. During sleep, the body repairs, the brain resets, and they both recover and grow. This takes place through a number of important stages, brought on by the production and release of important hormones, the most well-known being melatonin. Melatonin helps the body fall into a deep sleep so it can begin repair. It is during deep sleep that growth hormones are released for proper muscle repair and growth. Melatonin is released by the body once the sun sets, to anticipate the onset of darkness and prepare for sleep. Artificial light, especially blue light from computer screens, televisions and other electronic devices severely inhibits melatonin release, thus impacting our ability to fall asleep, and overall sleep quality.
Now that we’ve explored why sleep is so important, here are some tips to improve your sleep quality, and therefore improve your overall results!
- Aim for 8 Hours of Sleep per Night: No doubt you’ve heard this advice before, and it’s true. Try to make a conscious effort to get to bed on time. You may feel like an earlier bedtime would cut into your leisure time, but your body and mind will thank you for it. How nice would it be to wake up BEFORE your alarm, and actually feel like getting out of bed? If you get enough sleep, this could be a common scenario.
- Take at Least 30 Minutes to “Unwind” Before Bed: This is really important. If you’re going to bed still thinking about the TV drama you just watched, or the stressful meeting you had at work today, chances are you’ll have some trouble falling asleep. Have a cup of green tea, sit quietly and practice some deep breathing, or do some light stretches for 20-30 minutes before bed. It can make a big difference to how well you fall (and stay) asleep.
- Use Candles to Light Your Home: This is one of my personal favourites. As I mentioned above, artificial electric light can severely inhibit the release of melatonin, which you need in order to fall asleep properly. Fire light does not have the same harmful effect. Using candles, or at least using dim lamps instead of bright overhead lights will really help improve your sleep quality. Try it!
- Download “F.lux” for Your Computers and Laptops: And use a blue light filter for your smart phone. This is an awesome way to minimise the inhibiting effect of blue light on your melatonin levels if you find yourself up late staring at a screen. You can download f.lux for free here.
- Take Magnesium with Dinner: If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of magnesium for its host of health-boosting benefits. One of these benefits is its role in sleep hormone production. Make sure your magnesium supplement is chelated, and taking a few different forms is even better, as different forms are absorbed by different tissues in the body.
If you’re someone who doesn’t get enough sleep, give some or all of these tips a try. You’ll really benefit from it. And, if you still struggle with sleep even after implementing these strategies, send me an email to arrange a consultation.
I hope this article has helped you learn why it’s important to stop overlooking the importance of sleep! Until next time, sleep well.