Importance of Sleep
Sleep is a biological need and a function necessary for our body to thrive. It is the time when we regenerate and recover from the trials of the day before; rebalancing hormones, regenerating and building muscle, recovering strength etc. Long term lack of and poor quality of sleep is detrimental to health and can lead to a myriad of health issue such as weight gain, hormonal imbalances, cardiovascular issues and general deterioration of physical and mental health. Here are steps to take before bed to ensure a good night’s sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated for the day ahead.
How to improve your sleep.
1. Switch off the TV (or any other visual or audio stimulation) 1hr before bed. If dosing off in front of the TV has become your norm it is time to make a change. Let the mind quieten down and unwind before bed. Audio visual stimulation just before bed can reduce the quality of sleep and increase the time it takes for the mind to switch off and for the body to fall asleep. Spending one hour before bed in quite can be one of the best changes you make.
2. Do not go to bed on an empty stomach. Going to bed hungry is a no no. This may result in intermittent waking and an overall poor quality of sleep. Aim for a meal a few hours before bed but avoid high carbohydrates and sugar foods that can lead to disruption in sleep.
3. Stretch. This is important especially if you are very physically active. Stretching is as important as any strength and fitness protocol but is a highly neglected part of individual fitness. A full body stretching routine will relax the muscles and joints and bring you one step closer to better sleep.
4. Open the windows to ventilate the air in the room. This will improve the quality of oxygen in your house/room and help you fall asleep faster as well as deeper.
5. Dim the lights in your bedroom before bed. Body’s syrcadian rhythm is a complex process that has evolved to work in synch with the natural day light. Lower the exposure to artificial light in order to bring the body into its more natural state. Dimmer, less harsh light will have a similar effect to switching off the TV before bed by encouraging the body to unwind naturally.
6. Aim for 6.5-7.5 hours. This has been shown to be the optimum number of hours to sleep. Having enough time to sleep is one of the most important and one of the hardest steps to take. Anticipate the day ahead and if it means setting an alarm to remind you to go to bed, do it.
7. Warm shower. For most of us a shower at the end of the day is a must. However having a warm shower helps to lower the body’s temperature upon exiting the warm water. Lowering body temperature has been shown to trigger that drowsy, sleepy sensation that will help you fall asleep faster.
8. Take deep breaths. Breathing patterns vary depending on our stress levels. Slower, fuller breaths help to relax the body, slow down the heart rate and return the system to a calmer more focused state. Once in bed, become aware of your breathing. Take full breaths: in through the nose and out through the mouth. Continue until you feel your heart rate slow and the body relax.
9. Meditate and reduce audiovisual stimulation. You do not have to be trained at meditating technique to let the mind quieten before bed. Start with deep breathing and try to empty the mind of all thought. Switching off TV, musics and putting away the book a few minutes before sleeping will help quieten the mind and promote better sleep.
Making a habit of all or even some of the above steps before hitting the hay will improve your sleep many times over leading to better mood, energy, body composition and overall health.
With healthy wishes,
Dmitri and the team.