Sleep Quality for Optimal Performance

As a personal trainer, I know that not getting enough sleep or having poor sleep quality is an important issue that can be holding you back from improving your physical performance like getting stronger, faster, gaining muscle and even losing body fat. You can have the best training program and nutrition plan one could ask for, but unfortunately all of that won’t take you far if you are one of those people who constantly experiences fatigue from the lack of good sleep. Below you will find a few very important pointers that will help you establish proper sleep habits so you can feel energized and motivated to workout every single day!

• REGULAR RISING TIME.

It’s important to note that our inner sleep schedule mainly depends on our body temperature that tends to rise in the morning, stay elevated during the day and then drop down towards the night time. By waking up at the same time you will teach your body to get in a habit of increasing its temperature at a regular time, thus waking you up so you don’t oversleep. This way not only will you wake up at the same time in the morning, but you will also fall asleep at approximately same time every night. In contrast, by sleeping later on a given day and then attempting to go to bed at your normal time that night, you reduce a normal amount of prior wakefulness. To avoid that, get out of bed around the same time every day, including weekends, no matter how little or how poorly you have slept. Yes, you might end up being slightly tired that morning, but you will set your following week for a great sleep schedule! By establishing a regular arising time, you'll fall asleep more easily, sleep more deeply, and wake up less often during the night.

• PRIOR WAKEFULNESS.

With more prior wakefulness (ideally ~16 hours of being awake), we increase our exposure to sunlight and generate more physical activity. As a result, our sleep system is straightened and we sleep better. This explains why we might experience hard time falling asleep on Sunday nights after sleeping 2-3 hours past our regular rising time that same morning.

• REGULAR BED TIME.

Going to bed at a regular time is just as important as waking up at the same time. By establishing a consistent schedule where you go to bed around 8 hours before your rising time will insure that you get enough sleep considering you fall asleep fairly fast and stay asleep during the night.

• SUNLIGHT.

When sunlight enters the eyes, melatonin (sleep hormone) levels decrease, which signals body temperature to rise and promotes wakefulness. The opposite happens in the darkness, thus it's important to understand that spending more time outside will directly affect your sleep quality the following night. Studies show that a relatively brightly lit office room is still around 200 times darker than outdoor environment in the middle of the day. So get outside and spend there as much time as possible. A great way to get a good amount of sunlight is to move your workout outside to your local park where you can practice your bodyweight training skills!  

• EXERCISE.

Physical activities produce significant rise in body temperature, that’s why many people feel more alert and energized after their workouts. Besides rising body temperature, exercising also acts as a physical stressor to your body. As a result of this type of stress, the brain compensates by increasing deep sleep which makes us sleep more soundly and deeply. It is also important to note that we need to be active not just physically, but also mentally during the day since boredom can reduce the pressure for sleep and contribute to insomnia. Rise in body temperature during a workout is followed by a compensatory drop a few hours later. Therefore the beneficial effect of exercising on sleep is greatest when exercise occur within 3 to 6 hours of bedtime. Though working out in the morning has it’s own benefits like being much more consistent with the routine. So don’t worry if you are used to working out in the morning, you will most likely sleep just as well - the point is that you should try to exercise on daily basis!

• OPTIMAL SLEEP ENVIRONMENT.

Keep your bedroom cool! A warm room can keep you awake. Insomnia is associated with a failure of body temperature to fall either at that time or during the night. Sleeping in a warm room will make it even harder for your body temperature to decrease, thus it will make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. You should also keep the bedroom dark and quiet! The darker your bedroom is, the more melatonin will be released by your brain which will help you fall asleep and stay asleep much easier. To avoid many types of noise such as traffic, loud music, partner's snoring or loud neighbors try using earplugs or other noise blocking devices.

• RELAXATION RESPONSE.

You might have already heard that in past, but you really do need to know how to relax. Turning off tension in muscles from toes to head will allow you to relax and get your body ready to sleep, nap or simply rest.. There are lots of various techniques that can help you isolate yourself from any stressors and give your body a much needed break before it is ready to “turn off”.

• NAPPING.

Our bodies were meant to have a little midday break in form of a nap. This is why we tend to experience that lunch time “crush”. While most of us think that we don’t have a luxury of taking a short nap during the day, it is actually much easier than you think. Midday nap doesn’t need to be long, in fact it shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes if you don’t want to feel groggy when you wake up as well as have troubles falling asleep the following night. Napping for as little as 10 minutes can have huge benefits in form of increased productivity, better mood and it will serve you as a much needed “reset button”. So next time you feel sleepy at noon just find a comfy chair where you can close your eyes and relax for 10-30 minutes!

 

THINGS TO AVOID:

 

• CAFFEINE.

Caffeine is the most wildest used drug in the world. It's a powerful stimulant that speeds up brain waves, increases heart rate and blood pressure, and promotes alertness and reduces fatigue. These effects can last 6 or more hours after drinking as little as 12oz of coffee which can result in poor quality sleep the following night. Thus, it's important to limit consumption of caffeinated drinks and foods listed below, especially in the second half of the day:

- Coffee

- Tea

- Cola

- Chocolate

- Cocoa
 

• NICOTINE.

Nicotine also harms sleep. It's affects are similar to caffeine like faster brain waves, faster breathing and increased amounts of stress hormones. These and other stimulant effects can last for several hours after smoking and will certainly make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

• ALCOHOL.

Alcohol disturbs sleep because, as it is metabolized during the sleep, it produces withdrawal symptoms that cause sleep to become interrupted, shortened and fragmented. Alcohol also suppress deep sleep which results in poor sleep quality and fatigue feeling the next morning. Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime and limit it to 1 drink.

 

References: Gregg D. Jacobs Ph.D. - “Say Good Night to Insomnia”

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