Not seeing the results you want? Believe it or not, the first thing you should be looking at is your sleep!
Getting enough sleep is incredibly important for our overall health and performance, yet it’s often overlooked. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising! If our body doesn’t get a chance to rest and recover properly, we often find ourselves feeling tired or moody, we struggle to stay focused at work, making decisions becomes harder, and of course, we feel hungrier and crave certain foods, which can make maintaining our weight more difficult.
When you’re asleep, your body is working hard to repair and rejuvenate all of the tissues in your body, including muscle tissue. Oxygen and essential nutrients are supplied to your muscles, facilitating growth, healing, repair and recovery. The pituitary gland releases a growth hormone that stimulates tissue growth, muscle repair and recovery.
When you don’t get adequate sleep, there is a significant decrease in growth hormone production, which can lead to loss of muscle mass and impaired recovery, as well as poor training performance. Your body also becomes stressed, and your cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is a vital hormone in the body that regulates our immune response and is associated with a decrease in anabolic hormones. As a result, it causes the breakdown of muscle tissue and prevents muscle growth.
Allow Joel and Steph to explain further…
If you struggle to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night on a consistent basis, it’s not difficult to see the stress it would place on our nervous system, body and overall health. Chronic sleep loss can lead to impaired immunity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and depression, just to name a few!
So we can see how important it is to get enough sleep, and although we might not be able to control all of the factors that affect our sleep, we can create habits and a routine that promotes better sleep!
Here are a few simple tips to start with:
1. STICK TO A SLEEP SCHEDULE
Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, or at least during the week. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night.
2. ESTABLISH A BEDTIME ROUTINE
Follow the same routine each night to help your body wind down and prepare for sleep. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to relaxing music. Calming activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities such as work or discussing emotional issues, and limit using electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual.
3. AVOID CAFFEINE
As we know all too well, caffeine is a stimulant that keeps us awake. Try avoiding caffeine (whether it’s in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, or pre-workout/fat-burning supplements) for at least six hours before bedtime.
4. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU EAT BEFORE BED
Going to bed hungry or over-full can cause discomfort that might keep you up. Try to avoid a large meal before bedtime and allow your food to digest for around 2 hours before going to sleep. It’s best to limit the fluids you drink before bed as well to help prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet.
5. CONTROL YOUR SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT
Prepare your room so that it’s the ideal environment for sleeping. A cool, dark and quiet room is best to promote a good night’s sleep. Consider using block-out shades or curtains, earplugs, a fan or air-conditioner or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Ensure that you have good quality bedding to maximise comfort too!
6. GET MOVING DURING THE DAY
It’s a well-known fact that regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to nod off faster and achieve a deeper sleep. But be aware that if you exercise too close to bedtime (at a moderate or high intensity), it can have a stimulating effect and actually impair your ability to fall asleep.
7. MANAGE STRESS
When your mind is buzzing with a seemingly never-ending to-do list, your sleep is likely to be affected. This is because the body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn increases alertness. To help promote relaxation, try to implement strategies to manage your stress levels. This may be as simple as organising your tasks for the next day, setting your priorities and delegating tasks to others who can help carry the load. Before bed, set out your schedule for the next day and then allow yourself to forget about it until tomorrow.
8. GO TO BED WHEN YOU ARE ACTUALLY TIRED
Struggling to fall asleep can lead to frustration and overthinking. Generally, if you’re not asleep after 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing - such as reading - until you feel you are tired enough to sleep.
Try incorporating these simple things into your daily routine and notice the difference it makes!