Sleep is an essential component of a well-balanced health and wellness program. While we often view sleep as a period of inactivity, it nevertheless is a very productive use of our time. It’s when your body is doing all of the behind-the-scenes rebuilding!
Sleep allows us to properly rejuvenate and recover from a hard day’s work, which leads to better productivity and efficiency for the next day. Some people can function well on little to no sleep. Others need to get their 6-8 hours in for them to function properly. And then there are some that feel best when they get 8-10 hours of Z’s.
Today we have energy boosters that can mess with our sleep schedule. These boosters contain caffeine, which is not ideal to consume anytime within 6 hours of your bedtime. Coffee, energy drinks and tea to help pick us up on days we need a little boost, but there is a trade-off with consumption.
Becoming dependent on these amenities long term is definitely not ideal, especially when it comes to your weekly workout routine and overall fitness goals. So what makes sleep so important and why do we need it?
When you live a healthy and active lifestyle, your body desperately needs rest. Being well-rested can push you to perform at your best capacity to reach those goals. When we exercise, we put stress on muscles throughout our body. We all know that feeling mid-workout when you want to give up because you are so tired. We’ve all been there and it can be a huge sign that you are not getting enough rest. The goal is to schedule your day to fit in 6-8 hours of sleep along with time for physical activity, to balance the effects of both. If you are completing intense workouts on a consistent basis, you may possibly need more than 8 hours of sleep in order to effectively recover your muscles in preparation for the next workout.
R & R (Rest & Recovery)
Sleep plays a huge role in the efficiency of the recovery process. While proper hydration and nutrition are very important factors in recovery, sleep is essential. Just like you can’t out train a poor diet, you can’t out train poor sleeping habits either. Poor sleeping habits combined with constant physical and emotional life stresses can cause a heavy toll on the Central Nervous System over time. Ultimately making it longer for your body to recover from your workouts and leading you to feel sluggish, weak and sore for your next training session.
Recovery time is incredibly crucial to a fitness regimen, which is why you should pay attention to your sleep schedule. Getting 6-8+ hours of sleep per night will help you feel more energized, work out harder and build lean muscle quicker. When your muscles recover adequately, you are more likely to come back stronger than before.
It doesn’t seem like there would be a correlation between sleep and diet, however there are many studies that show sleep deprivation is linked to weight gain and obesity. When you are running on little to no sleep, your hormones may be thrown off, including the hormone that stimulates hunger and appetite (Ghrelin). Also, since you are awake for a longer period of time, you are likely to become hungry more often. If you are up until 2am and you usually go to bed around 10 pm, your body may feel hungry since your schedule is thrown off. Causing you to consume more calories throughout the period you are awake.
It’s also important to note what time you are consuming foods before bed time. I usually try to focus on eating my last meal at least 90 minutes before I head to bed. I feel this gives me adequate amount of time for my body to properly digest the food and get you ready for a good slumber. Also, consuming foods high in Tryptophan (ex. turkey, chicken, nuts and seeds) before bed is a great option as Tryptophan increases serotonin which converts into melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that plays a huge role in helping you sleep.
Additionally – eating protein prior to bed is something that many folks overlook. While your body repairs itself on a neurological basis during sleep, there is a need for physical repair too! And protein is your ticket to both. Getting a high-protein snack in before you hit the hay will benefit you in two ways: fat loss and muscle repair. Your body will utilize protein overnight to repair the wear and tear you put yourself through during the day.
Tips & Tricks
- Create a consistent schedule — and try to stick to it as best as possible (even on weekends, holidays, etc.)
- Create a bed time ritual or routine to wind down
- Make sure you aren’t hungry or stuffed when you go to bed
- Eat something protein-based before bedtime
- Cool air may improve your quality of sleep
- Make sure the room is dark
- Don’t watch TV or consume content on your phone right before bed
Don’t overlook your sleeping habits. Many studies on Americans show we are not getting enough rest during the week, and especially the weekend. This just leads to lower productivity, higher levels of grumpiness, and more dependence on caffeine boosts. If you take the time to get quality sleep, you’ll find yourself living a happier and healthier life. Not to mention the great benefits that come along with taking care of your body!
We only have one body to live in. It’s not like a car – you can’t just go get a new one when it dies (at least not yet!) … So. Take care of it.