When people talk about getting in shape, they mention a lot about calories, training, exercise and overall diet – all of which are essential and will be the foundations to your progress. However, there is another vital component to your development that people often overlook – sleep.
Many people underestimate the importance of sleep when it comes to weight loss or fat loss, but there are several reasons why it needs to be a priority. A high-quality night’s sleep of 7-9 hours gives your body much-needed rest and recovery from your daily exercise and tasks, which is also crucial to progression. Furthermore, you produce a large portion of your growth hormone when you sleep, particularly in the first two hours. In order to build lean muscle tissue and burn fat efficiently, we need growth hormones, and as your growth hormone levels decrease gradually in your late 20’s, the importance of sleep then increases.
Sleep also produces Melatonin in the pineal gland and is involved in energy metabolism. It also balances your cortisol levels (the stress hormone that is part of our survival mechanism), and your levels of your insulin (the major hormone that controls your blood sugar levels), which is vital for your body to be able to rest and recover from your activity during the day.
So, it is crucial to prioritise the quality and duration of your sleep. However, many people struggle to achieve this. Luckily, there are a number of strategies you can adopt to overcome this issue.
Work Hard During the Day
One of the biggest ways in which you can improve your sleep is to physically work harder during the day. It sounds simple, but if you increase your energy output through training, walking, and general, everyday tasks, you are more likely to feel tired in the evening, increasing the need for rest and therefore improving your chances of having a better night’s sleep. People often do very little exercise during the day and don’t feel tired when they go to bed. If this is you, make sure you increase your physical activity during the day, so you feel more tired in the evening.
Establish a Routine
Having a routine is vital when it comes to sleep pattern and quality. If you are going to bed and waking up at different hours, your body will struggle to adapt and maintain a high-quality sleep of 7 to 9 hours. For some people, due to work commitments, this can be an issue but it is important to plan when you want to go to sleep and stick to it consistently. Once you do this, your body will adapt and help you get those 7 to 9 hours a lot easier. It will also help with getting up early, and you won’t feel as tired in the morning.
Calm Surroundings and Eliminate All Lights
Make sure that your surroundings support your desire for a good night’s sleep. If you have noise going on in the background, it affects your body’s ability to drop into a deep sleep, which is vital for recovery and progress. It will also affect the chances of you waking up in the middle of the night, which can then lead to difficulty in getting back to sleep. So, make sure the noise around you is limited if not non-existent, turn off the lights, and give yourself the best chance of sleeping well and allowing your body to recover.
Reduce Fluids Before Your Go to Bed
Many people manage to initially fall asleep but have problems with waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. This is because they have been drinking lots of fluids before they go to bed, which increases the chance of you having to wake up at unsatisfactory times and forcing yourself to go back to sleep, which can be challenging.
So, by reducing your intake of water and other fluids an hour and a half to two hours before bedtime, you are giving yourself the chance to stay asleep the whole night. Once you wake up, make sure you hydrate first thing, so that your body receives vital nutrients and you can start the day in a productive manner.
Reduce Screen Time
This is an area where a lot of people have problems with, especially in the modern world, as it is common to check your phone before they go to bed after watching lots of TV in the evening. Increased screen time can delay the release of melatonin and your overall sleepiness, which can then lead to you being more restful during the night and reduce the number of hours you sleep in general. So, if you want better sleep, make sure you reduce the time in front of a screen – changing to reading is often a good option and helps with the next point too!
Empty Your Mind
It is imperative that you have a clear, calm mind as you go to bed. If you are stressing over something in your life, whether it be work, family, health or relationships, it can be very difficult for you to relax and gradually fall into a deep sleep. So, try to forget the challenges you face on a day to day basis and empty your thoughts. A good way to achieve this is through meditation, where you can slow down, take deep breaths, be positive and relax. This is vital for ensuring that you hit your sleep targets, both in terms of quality and duration.
Slow Releasing Carbohydrates With Your Last Meal
The last one is not an area that many people focus on, but it can be very effective. The consumption of slow-releasing carbohydrates (rice, oats, potatoes, pasta) can improve sleep duration and quality because it leads to the release of insulin, which can boost the production of serotonin. Based upon light exposure to the eyes, serotonin is then converted to melatonin by the pineal gland. You will also feel more satisfied in your stomach and less hungry, which can keep your mind and body at rest. As a result, you will be ready to sleep when bedtime arrives, which will lead to a much higher chance of that night’s sleep being the desired duration and quality.
So, if you are someone who struggles with sleep, make sure you implement these strategies to give yourself the best chance of improving in this area. Once you do so, you will find that you make better progress with your fitness goal, you have more energy, you are less stressed and you are more productive throughout the day. Prioritise high-quality sleep and you will find that your body and mind are much better for it.
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