Rather than fitness, this month, our Facebook group is talking about sleep. Seriously !!! I know, I know. You’re already thinking that all you need to do is lie down, close your eyes and it just happens. Or does it ?
We’d probably all understand that getting a good nights sleep is a great way to recharge and improve our mental state, but what if I were tell you it can also affect your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight ? Well ladies, I’m here today to tell you that’s EXACTLY what it can do !!! Sleep is an ESSENTIAL part of your fitness regime. So if you’re serious about getting into shape, sleeping and resting should be a core part of your routines.
Ready ? Set…………. Lets errrrr, sleep !!!
Tip one – Feel the Rhythm
Getting in sync with your natural sleep-wake cycle (or circadian rhythm to use its scientific name), is a really important part of sleeping better. A regular sleep wake cycle will result in you awaking more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times, even if you only alter your sleep schedule by an hour or two.
Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Strange as it seems, If you need an alarm clock, you may need an earlier bedtime ! And lastly, I know its soooo hard, but try to avoid sleeping in, even on those lazy weekends it feels you deserve after the week from hell in the office !
Tip two – Control your exposure to light !
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm.
In the morning, try to expose yourself to as much natural bright sunlight as you can. The closer to the time you get up, the better. The light on your face will help you wake up
Spend more time outside during daylight. Take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.
At night, we want all the opposite things. So…… Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens or simply turning the brightness down. Say no to late-night television. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audio books instead.
Don’t read with backlit devices. Tablets that are backlit are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source.
When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Also consider covering up electronics that emit light.
Tip Three – Food can make a difference !
Your daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime. WE want to avoid big meals at night (after 20:00 really). Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
You also should be trying to avoid drinking alcohol before bed. While a nightcap may help you relax, it interferes with your sleep cycle once you’re out. On the subject of drinking, you should try not to drink too much in the evening as, well, you know. Lots of trips to the bathroom, nobody wants that !!
Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs. Eating lots of sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta during the day can trigger wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
Tip Four – Wind down and clear your head !
Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well.
If anxiety or chronic worrying dominates your thoughts at night, there are steps you can take to learn how to stop worrying and look at life from a more positive perspective. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime.
If the stress of work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you may need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
The more overstimulated your brain becomes during the day, the harder it can be slow down and unwind at night. During the day, many of us overstress our brains by constantly interrupting tasks to check our phones, emails, or social media. Try to set aside specific times for these things, and focus on one task at a time. When it comes to getting to sleep at night, your brain won’t be accustomed to seeking fresh stimulation and you’ll be better able to unwind.
Tip Five – Improve your sleep environment
A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep.
- Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet 18 Celsius is just about perfect for a great nights sleep. Any higher than about 22 Celsius and you’re going to find it difficult to nod off.
- Keep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from neighbours, traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan or sound machine. Earplugs may also help.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable. Your bed covers should leave you enough room to stretch and turn comfortably without becoming tangled. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers, and pillows that provide more or less support.
- Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex (Yummy !) . By not working, watching TV, or using your computer in bed, your brain will associate the bedroom with just sleep and sex and make it easier to wind down at night.
That’s a few of my favourite tips for getting to sleep – what’s your favourite ? Don’t be shy, let me know !