Top Tips For A Great Nights Sleep…
Sleep. We all need it. Without enough of it our body can’t possibly function at optimal levels, let alone conquer any heath and fitness goals. It is severely underestimated in the effect it can have on a persons health, and we often times become accustomed to the feeling of life on inadequate sleep so, therefore, we can tend to believe that looking and feeling tired, sluggish and moody is just normal.
For years I had fallen into this trap myself. Waking up on 5-6 hours of sleep, which was often broken, and pushing through day after day and trying to ‘catch up’ on the weekends. Sounds ok in theory but as my body began to tell me, was clearly unsustainable. It was so counterproductive to my goals! Loss of weight (not what I want), loss of appetite, poor concentration and focus, less desire to train, were all side effects of not getting enough hours of quality sleep.
The following are 7 important things that happen to our body while we are asleep:
- Your brain sorts and processes the days information
- Hormones flood your body
- Your sympathetic nervous system ‘chills out’
- Cortisol levels lower
- Your muscles temporarily paralyse during REM sleep (some scientists believe that is so you don’t act out your dreams during sleep)
- Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH) helps you not have to pee during the night
- Your immune system releases inflammation fighting cytokines
As I delve into my top tips for a good nights sleep, I wanted to highlight the latest two methods I use. Both new to me, and yet probably have given me the most success at not only drifting off, but also sleeping longer through the night.
The first is an app called Brainwave. This was introduced to me by coach Vicky after a discussion about how I found myself being more alert after trying guided meditation apps. There was something about hearing a soft, gentle voice guide me that I couldn’t get out of my head when it finished and was time to sleep. I was kind of replaying it over in my head to myself. So I was definitely curious when Vicks mentioned that maybe i’ll respond better to Brainwave. It’s a great app that can be used without wifi so there’s no chance of wifi activity disturbing you. In a nutshell, Brainwave is an app that uses advanced Binaural Brainwave Entertainment to stimulate frequencies associated with different states of mind. For example, at night, lying in bed, I set mine for deep sleep. I choose a background sound (I love the rain and thunder one), and while that is playing, you’ll hear a wave type frequency in the background designed to induce deep sleep. Some nights I find myself falling asleep with the ear phones still in. Its been awesome!
The second method I have begun using is drawing. You’ve probably heard how journalling and writing down any thoughts that come into your head before bed is beneficial for a better nights sleep, well same goes for drawing. Im a bit of an over-thinker so writing stuff down randomly on paper would probably cause me stress as Id second guess everything, (weird, i know). However, after having Luke Leaman from Muscle Nerds talk at Real Fitness, I learned that drawing can be just as effective. Now I’m certainly no Vincent Van Gogh, but just doodling and drawing shapes, patterns etc, had such a calming effect. I found myself yawning and ready to sleep after just 10 mins. The best part is that I didn’t wake until 5.10am, 10 mins before my alarm! This was quite a revelation as there had been a few nights per week where I found myself waking at 2-3am and taking a while to drift off again.
I highly recommend giving both or one of these methods a go if you are serious about getting better quality sleep, however, there are plenty of other little tricks one can utilise such as:
- Increase bright light exposure during the day
- Reduce blue light exposure (phone/tv/laptop screens) in the evening
- Don’t consume caffeine late in the day
- Try to sleep and wake at consistent times
- Take a magnesium supplement
- Don’t drink alcohol
- Try not to eat late in the evening
- Take a relaxing bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil
- Exercise regularly
So if lack of sleep or lack of good QUALITY sleep is an issue for you, it may well be time to reassess your day/night time habits if you’re serious about achieving your health and fitness goals. Whether its fat loss, muscle gain, recovery or general health, I believe sleep should be priority number one! Good quality sleep is giving your body every chance of success!