Is Sleep Important to Fitness?
We all like to take our Sunday Afternoon Naps, right? At least I do. I like to come home, take off my clothes and just jump in the bed and take a serious power nap. Sometimes with 4 kids from 5 to 17 years old, it isn’t easy to do. It’s kind of funny that when people talk about getting in shape and getting fit, you will always hear “Exercise More and Eat Less”. That is absolutely true. You do need to exercise more and eat less. But, how often to you hear “Get Rest”? Do you get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep? You don’t hear that very often do you? The third part of that fitness triangle is Sleep. The truth is, if you are burning calories when you are working out and you are working out hard, you need rest, and not just rest, but you need SLEEP. So, Exercise, Nutrition, Sleep. Your body rejuvenates and builds muscle while you sleep. That is a fact. But, how often do we neglect it? It is something that has to be planned for, just like exercising and eating right. You have to plan a bed time and you have to do that based on when you need to get up. There are so many things that can interrupt our sleep cycle but it needs to be protected as much as possible, especially when you are training for an event or just plain trying to get in shape and be more fit. It is something that cannot be neglected or your body won’t perform the way it needs to.
What interferes with Sleep?
Some of these are common sense, but some you may not have thought of lately. Anxiety is a big cause for lack of sleep and it can be a vicious cycle. A lack of sleep can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause a lack of sleep. Caffeine too close to bed time can obviously interfere. Exercising within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime. You ramp yourself up and it could take time to wind down. Heavy meals can cause indigestion and not allow you to fall asleep fast and get into deep REM sleep. Alcohol can relax you but studies have shown alcohol before bedtime keeps deeper sleep from happening. Not having a regular schedule and not going to bed around the same time every night can also confuse you. It’s a lot more difficult than it was for our ancestors. The old saying “Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Makes a Man Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” was obviously something they knew about. They “went to bed with the chickens”. They had no electricity, no TV and nothing really to do after it got dark except go to bed. We would be wise to follow some of those same patterns. I actually got 11 hours of sleep Saturday night. There was nobody here but the 5 year old and me and the downtime was very nice. I missed everyone else but with no distractions, I took advantage of it and I woke up the next morning feeling GREAT. Light and noisy conditions can also prevent deep sleep or interrupt REM cycles.
Why is Sleep so Important?
There are so many benefits to sleep and so many harmful things that can happen if you don’t get enough. As I said earlier, Sleep is not only when you relax and recharge but when our body’s systems reset and rebuild. It is when muscles heal from working out and get stronger. Rest, in the form of sleep, is absolutely critical to be able to perform to your highest potential. The amount of sleep needed for each individual is slightly different, but it averages between 7 and 9 hours. You should be able to fall soundly asleep around 10 to 15 minutes of laying down and getting still and quiet. If you are exercising and eating right, sleep should come easily and naturally. If you are anxious, all three of those, exercise, good nutrition and sleep can help alleviate your anxiousness. In addition, a lack of sleep has been associated with some very nasty health problems such as heart disease, weight gain, hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, depression, etc.
What can I do to get Better Sleep?
Here are just a few “Sleep Tips” for you. Slow down prior to getting into bed. Stretch. Lay on the floor and tense and relax your muscles from head to toe. Breathe DEEPLY from your diaphragm. Take 10 deep breaths as deeply as you can, hold for 10 to 15 seconds and release as slowly as possible. Drown out background noise with white noise like a fan or humidifier. Make the room dark. Drink a cup of chamomile tea. Sprinkle some lavender oil on a washcloth and put it inside your pillow case. Take a warm bath. Exercise early in the day. Have a regular bedtime. Stop worrying. Get a comfortable bed.
By regulating just a few things in your life, you will get better more consistent sleep and you will wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day!!