It may be common knowledge that of all the muscle recovery tips you could give someone, getting a good night’s sleep is at the top of the list. When you don’t get enough sleep or your sleep quality is poor, especially when trying to get into fitness, you can run into a whole host of problems that can quickly derail your goals for achievement.
So Why Is Sleep So Important?
Think of the last time you pulled an all-nighter, stayed out really late, or (for us parents out there), were up all night with a sick child. How did you feel the next morning? Like you got hit by a truck towing a tank driven by an elephant?
There are very few people I know who can deal with lack of sleep. My wife is barely functioning if she hasn’t gotten a tight 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. On the other hand, I know of several people (including myself) who function on anywhere from 5-7 hours of sleep (Notice I said “function, not excel. That’s an even fewer amount of people!)
According to WebMD (please for the sake of your anxiety, don’t go there to self diagnose a medical problem. This is purely for information!), some problems that can arise from lack of sleep include:
- – Less ability to think and learn (Remember college?). Without sleep, it is harder to be alert, pay attention, concentrate, and remember.
- – I have worked in schools for the better part of ten years and see this all the time. I have often wondered how much student performance would be enhanced by simply getting adequate sleep at night.
- – Physical health problems such as:
- – Heart disease and heart attack
- – High blood pressure
- – Stroke
- – Diabetes
- – Weight gain (Which is quite detrimental to our fitness goals)
- – Mental health problems such as:
- – Depression
- – In fact, it was a lack of sleep and rest that led to my own bout with depression after my son was born. More on that another time.
- – Anxiety
- – Depression
As we can see, a lack of sleep can go way beyond a headache in the morning (which I have experienced and are terrible in their own right). There are some serious concerns here that are worthy of our attention.
Additionally, when you sleep, that is the time your body takes to rest and repair itself from the day’s activities. If you had a heavy lifting session or did a bunch of running, your body is going to need adequate time to recover from the stresses placed upon it. Without it, you may find that your motor ability and reaction times suffer the next day and in your next workout.
Even worse, not allowing your body to get enough rest time to heal the wear and tear from the previous day can lead to sometimes severe injuries (something we all want to avoid in order to stay on track with our fitness goals)
This brings us to our next logical question:
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
As I mentioned before, everyone’s sleep needs are different. In general, it is recommended you get anywhere from 7-9 hours each day (more on that later). How do you know where you fall in that three hour range?
Here is where you will have to do some experimentation and it isn’t as simple as deciding to sleep for 10 hours a night. It is possible to feel tired from getting TOO MUCH sleep (What?! I know, right?)
It would seem your best bet is to start with the minimum of 7 hours and try this from several days to a week. If you feel refreshed and ready to go in the morning, then 7 hours may be all you need. However, if you are still dead tired when the alarm goes off and find it nearly impossible to get out of bed, then it’s safe to say you need more sleep.
At this point, you can increase your sleep time in 15 minute increments, trying it for a week, and the re-assessing. Once you get to the specific time when you are waking up refreshed, you know you have found your ideal number of sleep hours. One thing to note before we move on. This sleep time may fluctuate a bit and even increase as you begin to up the intensity and frequency of your workouts. More work may mean more rest is necessary.
Tips For Improving Sleep Quality
After figuring out how much sleep you need, it’s important to take a look at how to maximize its effect. There are several things you can do to make sure your sleep is uninterrupted as well as fully restful, which is what we want if our bodies are going to adequately recover.
- – Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. For example if you find you need 7 hours and 30 minutes of sleep each night, start with when you need to (or want to) wake up. In my case, I wake up at 5:15 a.m. That means I am looking to get to sleep by 9:45 p.m. the night before.
- – Try to keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable. Sleep.com recommends a temperature set between 60 and 67 degrees. My personal comfort zone is right at 65 degrees. If it is too cold in the room, you can always add blankets (Cool side fact, if you sleep with lower temperatures, it can also lower the cost of your heading bill! How’s THAT for being budget-minded!). However, think of the last time you tried to sleep in a hot room, sweating, with the sheets sticking to you. It probably didn’t go so well.
- – Try to resolve conflicts before you go to bed. Whether it is a conflict with a
spouse or friend, there is good advice in the old saying, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger”. Conflict can set the mind racing instead of calming it down (where it needs to be for ideal sleep). Therefore, it is a good idea to make-up beforehand to put both of your minds at ease. Praying together is something that I have done with my wife.
- – If you are anxious about something, try to set your mind at ease. An anxious mind is hardly a restful one. For example, I am always anxious about airline travel and so the night before a trip, I will try to do things that will get my mind off it for a while and also pray for peace and calm.-
What You Should Avoid To Promote Quality Sleep
Now that we have looked at some things you can do to be proactive, let’s look at some things you should stay away from before bed:
- – Avoid excess sugar or caffeine: Whether it is in dessert, coffee, or tea, it can be detrimental to your aspirations to get a full night’s sleep. Consuming sugar and/or caffeine before bed is counter-intuitive to rest as both will give you an energy boost and can keep you awake for hours.
- – My wife can’t even have coffee in the late afternoon or she will be up all night! A better option would be an herbal tea such a chamomile that will actually promote a restful state. However, you do want to be aware of how much you are drinking as that can lead to sleeplessness as well. To elaborate:
- – Try to limit your liquids (including water) for up to an hour or two before bed. One of the struggles I have as a parent trying to nighttime potty train is if a drink is given too late, a wet pull up is a near certainty the next morning. The same is true for adults, only instead of a wet bed (hopefully not at this point in our lives), we will be waking up at 2:00 a.m having to use the bathroom. If we are going for uninterrupted, restful sleep, this is not the ideal.
- – Stay away from activities that will stimulate the brain to be in a wakeful state. I have heard it recommended stopping watching the T.V. or looking at your phone or computer up to 2 hours before you go to bed! That’s tough, even for me to do! However, their is a science behind it that the light from our devices can keep us wide awake if we take it in too close to bedtime. Turn off the technology and choose some less stimulating activities.
Adequate Rest Will Lead To Progression and Results
Hopefully this article has shown you the importance of getting enough sleep, inspired you to make some changes to your routines, and given you some tools to make those changes happen.
Letting your body have enough time to rest and heal is just as crucial as making sure you get your workout in, and directly impacts how effective your exercise sessions are.
Let’s talk about it. What are some of your methods for getting enough sleep? What do you do to calm down at night? Leave a comment and I will reply!
Sleep tight, everyone!