Tom, the personal trainer who founded Waite Training in Leeds has many tips to help you get started on working for your fitness goals.
A restful sleep impacts your ability to recover properly from your training. A good night sleep helps you to make better nutritional choices which can assist in losing body fat.
However, we're often left with "get better sleep" as the main take away from those observations. So here are some actionable tips on how you can achieve that.
The First Step: Prioritise Sleep
Recognising that sleep is integral to your health, and is undoubtedly as important as training and nutrition for results is the first step. Once you understand that a good night's rest is the way every other element of your exercise regime and diet becomes optimised, it's easier to prioritise it.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
The amount of sleep you need is dependant on your individual needs and will be unique to you. Not only will you need a different amount of sleep from someone else, but the amount of sleep you need might vary depending on your life circumstances at the moment.
If you're training more, especially outdoors, your body may demand more sleep. If you're learning something new or being challenged in new ways at work, you may need more sleep so that your brain has time to assimilate what it's taking on during your waking hours. Most people do best with between 7 and 9 hours a night, subject to personal circumstances.
How Can You Achieve Your Sleep Need?
"Get between 7 and 9 hours sleep each night" is a straightforward guide, but with all the best distractions happening at bedtime, how can we try to work towards that? For one, it can help to go to bed at the same time each night and to get up at the same time each morning. Yes, even on weekends.
When you have a fixed routine, it will help your body recognise that it's time to wind down, which allows you to fall asleep more easily. It can help to regulate your circadian rhythm and get your body into a routine as quickly as possible. Think about how difficult it can be when you go on holiday and feel jet-lagged. It can take several days to reset your internal clock to wake up and feel tired at the appropriate local times. You can avoid these feelings of sluggishness by sticking to a bedtime.
Create A Bedtime Routine
Once you've decided on a time that works for you on weekdays and weekends to get to sleep, you can focus your efforts on developing a bedtime routine. Like most things, this is going to be pretty personal to you, but there are some suggestions which can help to prepare your mind and body for sleeping.
Minimising or eliminating blue light in the two hours before bed can help improve sleep for many people. Blue light is what gets emitted from screens, and makes it harder for your body to produce the melatonin which makes you sleepy. In other words, looking at devices around bedtime wakes you up too much to get to sleep on time.
Switching to a dark mode or night shift on your device, which overlays a warm layer onto your screen, only goes so far. Ideally, you want to avoid screens in the hours before bed. For entertainment, choosing something that doesn't require that you look at a screen will help you to fall asleep. That could be reading, knitting, or just talking to your loved ones.
Keeping your bedroom cool and dark, using blackout blinds if necessary can help to cut down on the amount of external light in your room that could disrupt your sleep. The fewer distractions, the quicker you fall asleep and the more chance your body gets to recover fully.
Taking a relaxing bath or shower, meditating or listening to white noise can also be beneficial to help you feel sleepy.
Sleep Inhibiting Nutrition Habits
Preparing for bed starts many hours earlier. Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours, which means if you have a double espresso at 4 pm, you still have a single espresso in you at 9 pm. This is true of anyone that consumes caffeine so if you're reading this thinking that your afternoon coffee doesn't affect you - it probably is. You may want to consider a caffeine curfew.
Similarly, alcohol can make it impossible to enter deep stages of sleep where recovery and restoration happens, so limiting alcohol intake will also improve your sleep quality.
Some people report struggling to sleep if they go to bed feeling too hungry. If that sounds like you, you could consider having a chunk of your carbs with your evening meal to increase serotonin and reduce neural stimulation. However, be cautious about eating too much close to bedtime as this can cause discomfort and feeling bloated, which may inhibit you from falling asleep quickly. Around 4 hours before bed seems to be optimal.
When your body doesn't get the quantity and quality of sleep, your body needs for optimal performance; it can increase your stress levels and jeopardise your fat loss goals. If you're on a venture to sculpting the body of your dreams, making sure your sleep serves that goal is imperative. Feel free to get in touch if you need directions on your fitness goals.