Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Sleep is just as important (maybe even more so) than nutrition and exercise when it comes to health, performance, and body composition.
-ages us faster
-makes it harder to get and stay lean
-makes it harder to gain and keep muscle mass
-increases risk of chronic illness
Fortunately good sleep can also reduce these risks.
The easiest way to improve our chances of good quality sleep is by creating a bedtime routine.
1. Keep a regular schedule. Do your best to go to bed and wake up the same time everyday. When you are consistent, your body will know when to release calming hormones before bed and stimulating hormones to help wake you up.
2. Keep caffeine and alcohol moderate. Before you get “turnt up” remember that alcohol can effect deep sleep and caffeine after 2pm may make it harder to fall asleep. So, even though you may “sleep” a long time, it won’t be high quality so you won’t get the recovery benefits.
3. Do a brain dump. How many times have you stayed awake at night stressing about what you have to do tomorrow? Or maybe every awkward/embarrassing thing you’ve ever said comes to mind right before you are about to fall asleep? Write out a list of what’s bugging you or what you have to do so it’s on paper and out of your head.
4. Turn off electronics 30 min or more before bed. Yes, this means no more YouTube cat videos at 1am. Our brain produces melatonin as light levels decrease. Too much light at night and we won’t get proper melatonin production.
5. De-stress before bed. This could be going for a walk, stretching, reading, or mediating. Being relaxed makes it much easier to fall asleep at night.
6. Sleep for at least 7 hrs per night (8 is even better). Consistently getting less than what’s prescribed above can cause you to pay a big price in health and productivity. The clients I've worked with that were able to sleep 30 minutes to 1 hour more said they felt like different people. Try going to bed earlier but start small. Aim for 5 minutes earlier for a week, then 10, etc. until you feel rested when you wake up!
7. Exercise Regularly. This helps normalize circadian rhythms and tone down the sympathetic nervous systems. Try to avoid late night workouts as they may make it harder to fall asleep.
8. Take a bath or shower. This is for the sanity of the people around you all day. Just kidding! Warm water before bed can help us relax and de-stress which is key for falling asleep. Some people like cold water instead of warm. I recommend experimenting to find what works best for you.
Implementing all of these at once may be difficult so start with the lowest hanging fruit that you feel like will help you sleep better and do it! Gradually add what you can handle to create an awesome and restful bedtime routine.
McNair Health and Fitness
"Source: Hacking Sleep" By Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD