Looking and feeling better is so easy, you can do it in your sleep!
Ok…easy might not be the best word since we have all struggled at times to reach our goals. But some of the best improvements you can make happen when you are asleep. Virtually every process in the human body, from fat burning to cognitive function, loses efficacy when deprived of sleep.
If you spend hours every week in the gym, without devoting equal commitment to sleep quality, you might be undoing all your hard work. The entire process of exercise functions as a means to break the body down so that it may grow stronger through recovery. And the vast majority of that recovery happens when you are…you guessed it, sleeping! In fact, research shows up to an 80% increase in a person’s risk of obesity for every hour of sleep lost each night (1).
Now you don’t need me to tell you that you could probably benefit from more sleep in general, since the majority of the population does not get enough. If sleep is a priority to you, I trust that you can set up a sleep schedule and stick to it. Instead, we will tackle the more complicated issue of poor sleep quality. Here are a few tips to help you recover from your active lifestyle.
Your body has a remarkable ability to sense future activities if given a consistent routine. Structuring the last couple hours of your evening can relax the mind and prepare it for sleep. To get the full benefit of this, I recommend turning off all technology at least an hour before your scheduled bed time and doing activities that relax you such as reading, meditating, or a warm bath/shower.
This one seems like a no brainer. Obviously I’m not going to down a few cups of coffee at 10:00 pm and expect a peaceful slumber. Although, I think the effect of caffeine is often underestimated. A 2013 study showed that caffeine ingested even 6 hours prior, had a significant effect on sleep quality (2). So, if you’re a social caffeine drinker, switch over to decaf in the second half of your day. It might take some getting used to, but quality sleep will give you more energy than caffeine ever will.
•Use a Second Pillow to Reduce Pain
Sleeping on a mattress, no matter how firm, presents problems to many in the form of hip and back pain. Strategic use of an extra pillow can help manipulate your position and allow for better comfort both when you’re asleep and awake. If you’re a stomach down sleeper, excessive arching of the back can be a problem, since gravity forces your hips to sink into the bed. Alleviate this by simply placing a pillow underneath your stomach. For those of you who prefer sleeping on your side, pain often arises from the increased twisting pressure on the hips. Placing a pillow between your legs solves this. Or, if your upper leg tends to roll in front of your body, place the pillow under that knee. Finally, for those who can miraculously fall asleep flat on their back, there are two different considerations depending on possible back pain. If you experience any sort of discomfort when you arch your back, the pillow is best placed under the knees. If rounding, also known as flexing, the back causes pain, place the pillow under your lower back to create more of an arch.
Seems ironic to get sleep advice from a college student with his own personal training business when sleep is sometimes hard to come by. These strategies have greatly helped me get quality sleep from the hours I’m given. I hope this article helps you sleep better so you can live better!
To health and happiness,
Chris Caden CPT
North Hollywood CA