Getting enough quality sleep is one of those “Keystone Habits“ that leads to a cascade of other healthy habits.
Most people find that when they get enough sleep they crave less unhealthy food, they feel more motivated and optimistic, they have more energy to workout, and everything just feels that much more do-able.
When you are sleep deprived on the other hand, not only does your health actually suffer, but all of your good nutrition and exercise habits become less effective and much harder to stick to as well.
If your eating and exercise are on point, but you still don’t feel or look the way you want, poor sleep may be to blame. Here is some advice and an infographic from Precision Nutrition on how to tap into the power of sleep and make rest a daily priority.
5 Signs Your Sleep Habits Aren’t Working For You:
- You’re struggling with your weight. Poor sleep is linked to excess body fat, as it can disrupt appetite regulation, cause you to feel hungrier, and lead to increased calorie intake. Also, excess body fat can reduce sleep quality.
- Your mind is foggy. What we experience and learn gets cemented to memory while we sleep. Interference with this process causes reduced alertness and concentration, confusion, impaired judgement, and forgetfulness.
- You’re getting sick a lot. When we don’t sleep enough, T-cells go down and inflammation goes up, resulting in increased vulnerability to viruses and bacteria, acute increase in risk of getting sick, and increased risk of heart disease and other inflammation-related illnesses.
- Your workouts feel too hard. Our body uses sleep as an opportunity to refresh neurotransmitter levels and remove energy-draining metabolites. Otherwise, we experience decreased central nervous system activity, slower reaction time, low energy and endurance capacity, depressed mood, and reduces desire to exercise.
- You’re unhappy. While we sleep, we produce fresh neurotransmitters and regulate hormone production. Interference here causes impaired regulation of emotions, heightened stress, low mood, and possible increase in risk of depression.
Preparing For a Good Night’s Sleep:
As odd as it sounds, your path to high-quality sleep starts in the morning:
- [Morning] Wake at the right time. You’ll feel better and more alert if you wake from a light sleep stage. If you feel groggy, consider a device or app that senses sleep cycles and rouses you at an optimal point.
- [Morning] Be awakened by light. This naturally raises cortisol, which is a good thing in the morning. The slow rise helps you feel alert and relaxed.
- [Morning] Get moving right away. Movement seems to speed the waking process, whereas hitting snooze increases sleep inertia. When it’s time to wake, sit up and put your feet on the floor.
- [Day Time] Find the sun (or a light therapy box). Light exposure sets your daily melatonin (a sleep hormone) rhythm. This increases wakefulness during the day and helps your body gear down at bed time.
- [Day Time] Be careful of alcohol and caffeine. Consuming caffeine after 2pm and/or having more than 1-2 drinks in the evening can interfere with deep sleep.
- [Day Time] Exercise. Regular exercise helps normalize your body’s 24-hour clock, regulate your fight-or-flight system, and optimize your hormone levels. However, be careful with very intense exercise later in the evening as it may make it harder to fall asleep.
- [Evening] Eat a small to medium dinner. Too much food can make it harder to fall asleep. A blend of minimally processed proteins, carbs, and fats can help keep you satisfied until morning. Plus, having some slow-digesting carbs can make you feel sleepy.
- [Evening] Limit fluids. Drinking too much liquid shortly before bed can result in frequent waking for bathroom breaks.
- [Evening] Clear your mind. Whatever thoughts are in your head, get them out and onto paper. This preps you for genuine relaxation.
- [Evening] Go the $%#@ to bed! Sticking to a reasonable bedtime teaches your body when to release calming hormones to help you fall asleep. Tip: Don’t wait until midnight. Every hour of sleep before 12am is worth two hours after!
- [Evening] Sleep at least 7 hours. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting fat less now, that’s okay. Just work your way up slowly. Even adding 30 minutes can make a big difference.
More Tips For Better Sleep:
- Turn off electronics. Remove your eyes from all devices at least 30 minutes before bed. Artificial light interfered with our production of melatonin, which ensures deep sleep and may help regulate metabolism.
- De-stress. Reading, meditation, and gentle movement (stretching, yoga, walking, sex, etc) can release tension and active calm-down chemicals.
- Take a bath or shower. Warm water can help us relax and de-stress. Throw in some magnesium-based Epsom salts, known to help with sleep.
- Create a relaxing sleep area. Your bedroom should be quiet, peaceful, relatively organized, and free of anxiety-inducing clutter. If you live in an urban area, consider a white noise machine to drown out city sounds.
- Set your room to an appropriate temperature. Most people sleep better when it’s cool (around 67 F / 19 C); others sleep better at a neutral temperature. Find what works best for you.
- Make the room as dark as possible. To maximize melatonin production, cover your windows and turn your phone face-down. Use a motion-sensitive or dim night light to illuminate mid-sleep bathroom trips.
Infographic (Click to Enlarge):
Source: Precision Nutrition.
Also see Sleekgeek’s blog post on: 10 Reasons why sleep is so important and 5 tips to improve yours.
If you are like us and absolutely love infographics, check out what else we have featured here.