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8 tips for better sleep

8 Tips for Better Sleep

to support harder training!

Let’s face it, whether real or perceived, life seems to move faster now than ever before. The hustle and bustle of most people’s lives has created certain associated behaviors. Drive by a Starbucks® any morning and the demands for generating alertness, high energy levels, and optimal cognition throughout the day are obvious. In order to stay ahead in professional environments, more and more people are beginning to follow daily caffeine consumption patterns, and one of the physiological necessities that takes the most significant detriment from these behaviors is sleep. It is estimated that 90% of people in the world consume at least one meal or beverage with caffeine daily.

But caffeine is not the only thing stealing sleep from Americans. Adequate amounts of sleep are essential to maintaining optimal levels of health but are even more important for those who experience high stress - which includes fitness training. Lack of sleep negatively affects weight, risk for disease, motivation, exercise compliance, muscle protein synthesis, healing from soft tissue injuries, and even cravings for certain unhealthy food choices. Being able to achieve the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each day can prove to be a challenge for most people, so here are some tips for deeper, more restful sleep.

1. Control light exposure to prevent circadian rhythm disruptions

One of the main stimuli for the upregulation and downregulation of circadian rhythm is light. Photoreceptors in the eyes send signals to the brain and in turn the adrenal system to kick off a cascade of reactions associated with wakefulness or sleepiness based on the amount of light in the surrounding environment. In order to get your body to begin to wind down and receive the proper stimulus for bedtime, individuals will want to try to avoid exposure to blue light in the evening. Blue light specifically blocks the body’s natural release of melatonin, which is one of the main compounds for inducing sleepiness. To avoid blue light, follow these tips: • Wear blue light blocker glasses • Use apps that block blue light on phones, laptops, computers or television • Stop watching television and turn off any bright lights 2 hours before bed

2. Try to maintain a regular and consistent sleeping and waking schedule

Studies have shown that regularity helps your body establish stronger circadian rhythm patterns and natural levels of melatonin, which will in turn make you sleepy at the right time each night.

3. Avoid caffeine consumption late in the day

Caffeine can stay elevated in the blood for 6-8 hours so a general recommendation is to avoid consumption after 3-4 pm. Even if you are able to fall asleep after drinking caffeine later in the day, sleep quality can be negatively affected.

4. Foam roll to upregulate parasympathetic activity in the nervous system

One way to proactively stimulate your body to wind down from “fight or flight mode”, or sympathetically dominated nervous system activity, and into “rest and digest mode”, which is brought about by the parasympathetic nervous system - is to foam roll different areas of the body. This stimulus can have the same calming and relaxing effect as a massage. One particular area of interest cited by Dr. Kelly Starrett is the abdominal cavity. Studies have shown that this area can particularly downregulate the sympathetic nervous system and promote more parasympathetic activation, which will help with getting the body to a state that is ready for sleep.

5. Make time for a relaxing or calming routine before bed

Meditation, relaxing baths or showers, deep breathing, and listening to relaxing music can be great tools for preparing your body for restful sleep.

6. Exercise regularly but not too close to bed

Exercise has been proven in countless studies to improve sleep quality, sleep latency (time to fall asleep), and perceived restfulness from sleep. Due to the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, exercising too close to bedtime can be detrimental, in some cases, to sleep patterns. This is another factor that has high degrees of individual variability, so some people may experience no issues with exercising at night whereas others may remain awake due to the stimulus hangover. 

7.Try to avoid long naps during the day

Long naps or irregular naps can negatively affect circadian rhythm when it comes to trying to maximize sleep at night. This can be individually variable, so if one takes regular naps during the day and is still able to achieve good deep sleep at night, then it is not as much of a concern.

8. If all else fails, certain supplements can help promote sleep without causing a chemical dependence

Due to the possibility of causing a dependence on the compound when taking it as a supplement, both melatonin and diphenhydramine are generally regarded as a bad idea for chronic supplementation. However acute therapy may be useful for adjusting to significantly different time zones. The following supplements have not been shown to demonstrate dependency issues, making them better options, if needed, for regular use:

• Magnesium

• Lavender

• L-theanine

• Valerian root

• Glycine

If harder training is the goal, recovery is key. And without consistent, properly optimized sleep, recovery will be compromised. Hopefully these tips help and allow for a long and successful journey on the path to better fitness and health.

Contact one of our trainers to talk about achieving your fitness goals today!

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* Source: NCSF Journal of Personal Training Spring 2020

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