Sleep Better for a Stronger Tomorrow
We all know that sleep is essential, but have you ever thought about sleep as the ultimate training tool? Well, it just might be the strategy you need to get over your current plateau to reach your goals. Here we talk about why sleep is so important and how to set yourself up for the perfect night’s sleep.
Why sleep is so important
Sleep is essential to the mind and body, and, as you may have noticed, when you’re sleep-deprived, it can wreak havoc on your mental and physical function. According to Statistics Canada, “Insufficient sleep (short duration and poor quality) is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, injuries, all-cause mortality, depression, irritability, and reduced well-being.”
What your body is doing when you sleep
Your body is a miracle machine and performs many vital functions when you sleep so you can wake up refreshed and ready to tackle your workout. During sleep, your body is:
- Secreting higher amounts of growth hormone for tissue rejuvenation, muscle building, and fat breakdown
- Releasing small proteins, called cytokines, to help the body fight inflammation, infection and trauma
- Relaxing your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system
- Lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels
- Storing new information
- Eliminating toxins and waste
- Restoring energy
- Repairing cells
Create a sleep ritual
Adequate sleep is vital for long-term health and regeneration. About one-third of us aren’t getting enough sleep in terms of duration and quality(Statistics Canada). For adults aged 18 to 64, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended and 7 to 8 hours for seniors over 65 years old. Here are some tips for creating your ultimate sleep sanctuary for a restful and restorative slumber:
- Make it pleasurable
Make the bedroom a place you want to be. You’re going to be spending some time here, so create a space you enjoy being in. Buy yourself some new pyjamas, put on soft, fresh sheets. Maybe you hang a new ocean-theme canvas if that helps you feel relaxed.
- Close the blinds
Your bedroom should be as dark as possible so your brain can produce sleep-inducing melatonin, which encourages a whole night’s sleep. A cool space also enhances melatonin production; set your room temperature in the range of 15 to 19 degrees Celsius. If it feels cold at first, get cozy under a fluffy duvet or weight blanket, and you’ll sleep like a baby. Late evening is not a time to be scrolling, so if you can, have this be a technology-free zone for fewer interruptions and light. Also, this is the perfect time for spring cleaning, so shake out the blinds, vacuum, dust, and wipe down window ledges for a pristine, allergen-free space.
- Remove sources of stress
Ideally, your bedroom is not doubling as your office. Remove anything overly stimulating or activating from your bedroom, such as work reports, stacks of bills, or piles of dirty laundry.
* Pro-tip: If you have insomnia, possibly caused by depression or anxiety, see your healthcare provider for support. Therapeutic support, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can help improve sleep quality.
- Design a routine
It’s time to create a sleep ritual, the same as what you’ve been doing with your workouts and meal planning. Turn off the computer and put the phone away about an hour before you head to bed. Have a cool or warm shower, whatever feels best. Avoid stimulants like recreational drugs, alcohol, caffeine, or sugar. You want your body to use its energy on essential repair functions rather than digestion, so no large meals before bed. A good signal for this is if you’re going to bed feeling full, commit to eating sooner or having smaller meals in the evening.
Focusing on your breath can do wonders to help you wind down and settle into a comfortable position. Try the 4-7-8 breath in bed. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 7. Exhale out of the nose for a count of 8. You’ll be counting sheep in no time.
It is time to recharge your batteries and see what you’re capable of in the weight room, on the mat, and striding down the trail on your long Sunday morning run. By implementing even one of these strategies you will catch more zzz’s and live with ease. Sweet dreams.
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