Eat. SLEEP. Exercise.
We are all aware that there are many factors that go into creating an environment in which our bodies will thrive. Some of the first things that come to mind are physical conditioning – in whatever your sport may be – along with properly fueling your body to achieve your goals and peak performance. In addition to these two important factors is SLEEP! The quality and quantity of sleep that you are giving your mind and body play a vital role in reaching your personal goals and peak performance. Exercise depletes our body’s resources from fluids, energy and the breakdown of muscles. While we can remedy some of those effects with fuel and hydration when coupled with proper sleep the results are night and day.
Adequate amounts of research suggest that sleep deprivation increases our levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. There is also a decrease in our energy stores by the means on glycogen and carbohydrates. Overall, lack of proper sleep results in physical and mental fatigue, low energy and meager focus. Allowing your body and mind to recover could be the game-changer that you are missing.
While we live in a fast-paced society and each have our own unique and busy schedules, there are practices that you can put into play to ensure a good night’s sleep. It may be difficult at first, but getting great sleep comes down to developing great sleep habits.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. This will help keep your body’s internal clock in tune. This will result in a solid night of sleep – where you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. This includes weekends too. Instead, on weekends that you feel are necessary, opt for a daytime nap instead. Naps can create problems for some people so try to limit them to around 20 minutes in the early afternoon. Regarding the topic of naps, do your best to fend off post-meal drowsiness – especially dinner! This can easily throw off our schedules. Our bodies are built on routine!
- Create a good sleep space. When it is time for bed make sure you wind down and clear your head. Not only do you need to put yourself in a relaxed mental state, but the physical attributes of your room are vital as well. All electronics should be shut off or discontinued use around 30 minutes prior to bedtime. This includes late-night televisions, reading devices with a backlight and the use of our ever so prominent smartphones. Heavy curtains or eye-shades can help create a darker environment for sleeping as well. Darkness will promote a good sleep, while light will interfere with your body’s natural rhythm. A cool temperature will also help induce sleep with the optimal range being 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to set yourself up for success!
- Plan ahead. Avoid activities (such as television use mentioned previously), as well as food or drinks that interfere with sleep. Cut out caffeine by early afternoon to you can clear your system of any remnants by bedtime. Nicotine has a similar effect – but we recommend that you do your best to give that up as a whole! Spicy and acidic foods can cause gastrointestinal stress, which may lead to interference in your sleep. Indulge in those flavors in earlier meals and try to eat milder meals closer to bedtime.
- Boost your outdoor exposure and exercise! Get adequate exposure to the outdoors and natural sunlight when you wake up and throughout the day. With demanding work schedules this can be difficult but try to put ten minutes aside for some outdoor activity at during your workday. All it takes is a simple walk around the block to lift your mood and adjust your inner clock. Regular exercise also promotes better sleep at night – perfect for this challenge! While more enthusiastic activity will bring about a higher level of benefits, don’t count out light exercise. If time constraints limit your access to a gym, a home workout with just bodyweight can suffice.
These are just some basic guidelines to help pilot you towards getting a better night’s sleep and properly letting your mind and body recover. Our physical and mental health are of the utmost importance – with an emphasis on our mental health. Get adequate, quality sleep for higher energy levels, focus and performance. Remember, you are in control of your schedule and the changes you can make to improve this simple, yet critical aspect of daily life.