Improvements from exercise come in small jumps but add up over time. A lack of sleep may put you just below your best, surpassing the last jump you made. This process, repeated long enough, will even reverse progress. The extra stimulus you need to get better never comes about due to the lack of sleep.
This importance extends much further than just trying to accomplish more during your workouts. The incremental progression of lifting weights in the long run makes trainees aware of the need for sleep, and when even a slight deficiency is present.
Sleep affects your progress, outlook, health, and life. Most shortchange sleep, both in quality and quantity, relying on their alarm clock to get them out of bed. 7-9 hours per night of deep sleep, and even more when you have a debt to pay back, seems best for most of us.
Research shows that sleep allows you to recover best. It helps with losing fat, gaining muscle, and feeling alert when training. Enough sleep allows more testosterone, improved hormone balance, better blood flow, and other good effects. Sleep boosts motivation, allowing you to complete the tedious steps often needed to build long-term success in any field of work.
Exercise does not create positive changes, it stimulates them. If you lack sleep, working out can decrease your health and make you prone to sickness. Exercise is stress and without adequate nutrition and sleep, stress just breaks you down further.
A variety of tips form a basis for sleeping well. These may seem simple but require some discipline. Remember, you just need to achieve the conditions necessary for you, so you may not need to follow every suggestion.
The requirements for adequate rest are no more involved than those dictated by common sense and good health habits; some people require more sleep than others – so get as much as is normal for you as an individual.
– Arthur Jones
- Establish consistency.
Wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends, to establish a rhythm. Go to bed earlier when tired. Get up even if you stay out late. Eventually you will settle on a consistent schedule.
When you wake up, get up immediately. Keep in mind the time spent sleeping in has a poor value and will throw off your rhythms. You will also fail to reenter the REM stage. Instead, get more valuable sleep the next night.
As soon as you get up in the morning, go outside if possible. Try to see sunlight for 15 minutes. This acts as a cue for staying awake. If staying up late, take naps if needed instead of staying in bed throughout the morning.
Keep naps shorter than half an hour if they keep you awake well into the evening.
Spend time outside during the day when possible. Allow more light into your workspace. This contrast between more light during the day and less at night encourages sleepiness at the right time.
- Avoid light, electronics, and other stimulation near bedtime.
This means most need to go to bed earlier as a lack of light provides a cue for your brain to shutdown.
The body adapted to daily expectations and activity occurred during the sunlight hours. Rest occurred as darkness came. Our modern society disrupts this process and invites distractions that our bodies perceive as reasons to stay awake.
Anything bright that resembles sunlight can discourage the release of melatonin, especially the blue light from electronics such as phones and tablet computers. Taking these portable devices into your bedroom also encourages you to use them, instead of allowing the darkness to coax your into sleep.
Reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex, as sex can release hormones that help you sleep. Choose light reading and tasks prior to bed. Refrain from using a backlit reader. You want to avoid planning for the future. Use a small, dull nightlight or a flashlight for the bathroom.
- Avoid liquids, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and too much food in the late evening.
These all can disrupt sleep.
Caffeine has an average half-life of 5-6 hours but perhaps even longer in some people. This means it can remain in the bloodstream for 12-14 hours. Use it as early as possible and the lowest dose you need if at all.
Alcohol may help you to fall asleep faster but makes it less restful. 1-2 drinks should not be harmful and may be a net positive.
Do not eat too much immediately before bed (within 2-3 hours). If your stomach feels too empty, that also can interfere. A light snack before bed can act as a natural sleep inducer.
- Eat and train earlier and more often.
Training too late may affect your sleep. Try to avoid training within 5 hours of sleep. Reserve exercise and bigger meals for the morning or early afternoon hours.
If not training hard that day due to recovering from a previous session, walking or other easy exercise will exhaust you a bit. More importantly, it creates that contrast between day and night through activity and rest.
- Keep the room dark, quiet, and cool.
Consider room darkening shades or a mask. Cover your alarm clock and phone.
Make ambient noise with a fan or sound machine, which also serves to form a cue to go to sleep. Consider earplugs to drown out sounds. A sound as low as 40 decibels, such as a dripping faucet, can harm sleep for some.
Keep the temperature cooler, between 60-68°. You can try a cool mist humidifier. Ensure good ventilation and consider adding circulating air with a fan. Use more blankets if feeling cold. Nonetheless, you need to trust yourself; you should not feel chilly.
- Consider the calming effects of heat or cold near bedtime.
An cold or warm shower both work well. This advice may sound contradictory but in both cases the body responds similarly. An immediate temperature increase occurs due to both cold and heat. Eventually, this causes a drop in body temperature conducive to sleep.
Avoid these activities immediately prior to bed though. Allow the drop some time to take effect. Consider either option at least an hour before heading to bed. A higher temperature prior to sleep can delay it instead.
- Wear socks.
Warm feet seem to induce sleep. Covers may function fine though. Disregard this tip if it makes them sweaty.
- Choose comfortable materials.
Use a comfortable mattress, sheets, and pillows, which depend on personal preference.
Have enough room to stretch, move, and turn. Use a large bed, at least queen size, if sleeping with a partner. An ideal bed should have some give to the mattress as well but this depends a lot on personal preference.
Use comfortable sheets that feel soft and nonrestrictive.
- Develop rituals.
The body responds well to routines and cues that slow it down or speed it up. Listen to relaxing music, reading simple material, or drink caffeine-free herbal tea. Try simple preparations for the next day. Engage in meditation, visualization, or progressive muscle relaxation.
Try to avoid dwelling on sleep. Insomnia often comes from those that fear falling asleep. They go to bed when still feeling awake and fret over it. This develops a harmful pattern. Develop a relaxation technique to combat it.
Although often ignored, a pleasant morning routine also helps. This invigorates you. It keeps you active during the day which makes you more exhausted at night.
- Only sleep when feeling sleepy.
This reduces the time you spend awake in bed. Consider taking naps throughout the early afternoon but not as the evening approaches. Consider limiting naps to less than half an hour to prevent REM sleep.
Hold a pencil or other object. If you drop it while napping then you have begun to enter deeper phases of sleep. The sound will awake you and prevent this from happening. This can provide a simple test to prevent it. Falling asleep quickly at night works as a good sign of a good sleep system, within 15-20 minutes ideally.
When catching up on sleep, if possible, you can set a bedtime but allow yourself to wake up naturally. When catching up on sleep, you may initially feel sluggish. Persist though, and you will start to feel better. This occurs due to the concept of sleep debt, or the idea that you must pay back sleep you lose though this likely has a maximum before your body forces you to sleep. Over time, you will discover your best sleep schedule.
- Supplements and minor drugs may help in the short-term.
A small dose of melatonin may help reset your sleeping schedule. Long-term use decreases effectiveness. As a hormone, it can disrupt multiple systems. Anything above 3 mg represents a hyperdose. 200-400 micrograms serves as a better dose.
Zinc, calcium, and magnesium may promote muscle relaxation.
Herbs such as lavender, valerian, and chamomile may act as mild sedatives. Benadryl, known generically as diphenhydramine, may help with allergy issues and also helps sleep without major side effects. When used long-term though, it may harm the brain by decreasing acetylcholine levels so never rely on it and adhere to the directions on the label.
Changing your habits works best.
- Lose weight and manage stress.
Too much fat encourages disorders such as sleep apnea. Junk foods with too much sugar and fat will throw off your hormones. Too much stress makes it tougher for your body chemistry to knock you out when sleep time arrives.
- Consider technology.
Bright light therapy may work well during the winter months or with less light due to working conditions or your wakeup time.
These tips are basic but require some effort. Like similar exercise methods though, they have real value. No quick fix solution for sleep seems valid for long and may bring other problems. Any fleeting struggles brought about by adopting a new schedule will fade as your quality of life improves. You may discover a better person within you after making these changes.