Almost everyone needs 7-9 hours of quality sleep to be at peak performance, but unfortunately, few actually get that regularly. Sleeping is the most active time for your body to recover physically; the amount and quality of sleep is also closely related to mental performance; i.e. the ability to learn new skills, solve novel problems, and create new memories.
While everyone “knows” about the benefits of getting a good nights sleep, the research on poor sleep habits is less well known. Health side effects from a lack of sleep include an increased risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity, and stroke.
A lack of sleep has also been correlated with time missed at work, productivity while at work, and injury rates during working hours as well. In other words, not getting enough sleep is likely holding back your work performance and putting you at an increased risk for serious health concerns down the road.
The bottom line
You will spend roughly one third of your life sleeping or resting; it is smart to make that time as effective as possible to increase the productivity and quality of the time you are awake.
For those of you that claim that you can’t spare the time research, and my own anecdotal findings suggest just the opposite: time lost by sleeper more is usually recovered via increased productivity; not to mention having a better mood and increased performance and recovery speed.
Most people have heard of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep but most have no idea of its importance.
Sleep occurs in multiple stages throughout the night and during each cycle, REM sleep occurs. As the night goes on each period of REM sleep slowly gets longer with the final one (shortly before waking) lasting up to ninety minutes.
During REM sleep your body builds and repairs tissues throughout the body and memories are consolidated and stored (helping with memory). Creativity, or a lack of it, has been linked to duration of REM sleep as well. REM sleep, or a lack of it has been linked to a variety of health issues.
The point is this: if you want to be at your physical and mental peak you need 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night.
Tips for Helping You Get Better Sleep
Now that you know just how important sleep is I below I provide some very useful tips to help you get to sleep faster and get the most out of that time.
Black out curtains
Having a room devoid of light is vital to getting restful sleep. Before the invention of the light bulb humans slept in areas nearly devoid of light. That means turning off or covering up the light source on tv’s and other electronics; cover anything that emits light including.
Turn off all electronics
Blue light from tv’s, phone’s, and computer’s play a trick on your mind, making it think it is still daylight, delaying or disrupting natural hormone cycles related to sleep. Do yourself a favor and turn these off about an hour before you are planning on heading to bed to help the natural sleep cycle get started.
Turning down artificial lighting or turning it completely off and trading for candles an hour or so before you go to bed simulate sunrise and helps get the sleep cycle started.
A nice bed
As I mentioned before, you will spend about on third of your life in bed, so don’t be cheap, buy a nice mattress. Nice doesn’t mean expensive. My memory foam bed only cost around three hundred dollars and is as comfortable as any two thousand dollar mattress I have ever slept on.
Establish a routine
Like most things in your body sleep is regulated by hormonal cycles. Going to bed within a standard time frame and waking around the same time from day to day helps the body establish a normal rhythm and will help immensely with normalizing how long it takes to fall asleep, sleep duration, and sleep quality.
Taking a cold shower, or ending a hot shower on cold (as cold as you can handle for 5-10 minutes), is a neat little trick that can really help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper.
Mentally stimulating reading
While it may seem counter intuitive that mentally stimulating reading would promote falling asleep that’s exactly what it does. Try to read philosophy while lying in bed and I’m certain you’ll be out in about 20 minutes or less.
Other Things to Try
A big dinner, high in fats, and low in carbs can also help with sleepiness due to the larger release of satiety enzymes and relatively low release of insulin. Some people will find that the opposite (a meal high in carbs and low in fats) helps them sleep better. Pay attention to your body and do what works for you.
This app monitors sleep quality and quantity and also awakens people at a natural time within their sleep cycle. There is no cheating this app and clients that tend to lie to themselves about the quantity and quality of their sleep can’t lie to the app. Those of you into science or gadgets will also love this.
- Z-12 – Very potent, but also easy to develop dependency on so take only when necessary
- Melatonin – Is a naturally produced neurohormone that helps with sleep cycles
Both of these supplements that can help with sleep quality and quantity. None of these should be relied upon but can be used for short periods to help with sleeplessness.
Breathing increases parasympathetic (rest and relax portion of the autonomic nervous system) tone and also promotes relaxation proper breathing and helps the body physically relax. All good things for sleep.
Try this exercise out:
Modified Belly Lift updated from Rogue Performance on Vimeo.
Combines the benefits of reading something mentally stimulating, deep breathing, physically relaxing, and focusing on relaxing. Needless to say, it can help someone get into a relaxed state before bedtime.
Check out this new smartphone app designed by coach Craig Weller. This app uses science-driven methods to help you clear mental chatter from your mind. You’ll naturally relax into deep, peaceful sleep. You can fall asleep to the warm glowing and fading of embers from a campfire, or to the sounds of waves breaking on a beach.
Recovery is at least half of the battle of getting results; without proper recovery all of the work you are doing in the kitchen and at the gym can be wasted. Sleep is one of the biggest aspects of anyone’s recovery work, so make sure to apply these tips to your own life so you aren’t wasting your efforts in the gym.
Whenever you make a change in your lifestyle I suggest doing it slowly. Implement one or two of these (the ones that sound good to you) at a time. Write out a plan and include your family in the process, this will go a long ways towards actually making some changes happen.