Before you read this, ask yourself: did I sleep enough last night? Most of us busy people would almost immediately say no, and those of us who didn’t are probably lying.
What counts as “enough” anyway? Who cares if I don’t sleep? And what’s the long-term effect of sleeplessness on health, body, mind – all of it? #AskAmanda has you covered this week.
In our go-go-go society, especially where the pressure for us to achieve, demonstrate, and act is so high, successful people have somehow become martyrs for sleeplessness. As a trainer, I see firsthand the effects of this lack-of-sleep mentality in the gym. My clients that come in exhausted aren’t able to push as hard, they forget or misunderstand instructions more often, they get frustrated with simple tasks or deviations in their programs, and their heart rates soar through the roof even at lower intensities.
I have been known to actually turn away clients that come to me on fewer than five hours’ sleep since what they really need is a nap – not an hour of a*s-kicking.
Sleep is an absolutely crucial part of a full fitness regimen, and not one to be taken lightly. The adult human body functions best on about seven hours of sleep, but these must be quality (read: not up-and-down, mind-reeling, restless) hours. One of the best moves you can make for your “sleep hygiene” is to set a bedtime and a wake-up time, and stick to it – or within 30 minutes of it – all week (yep, that includes weekends). I absolutely love the iPhone’s new Bedtime mode for helping you do this – set one alarm all week and get reminders on when you should be in bed (that pop up most often while you’re up checking your phone, ahem).
Once you’ve got the consistency thing down with your sleeping hours, you can focus on making your sleep quality top-notch. Invest in a real, adult mattress and luxurious, soft sheets – your bed is the one thing in your house (besides your toilet, ha) that you rely on every single day – so it’s worth every bit of money you put into it. Spray your sheets with relaxing essential oils, get a dimmer on your bedroom light switch, cut the alcohol and caffeine at least two hours before you crawl into your cocoon, and remove any unnecessary electronics from your reach so you’re not tempted to check your phone, watch one last episode of Suits, or do anything other than sleep in your bed (I have been known to put my iPhone on a very short charging cord so I literally cannot get to it from my bed once it’s plugged in, and I also have to get OUT of bed to turn my alarm off in the AM, which helps me wake up).
If you’ve mastered sleeping regularly and sleeping well (which, let’s be honest, from a health perspective is about as easy as saying you’ve “mastered” eating clean and cooking nightly), you’re ready to reap the myriad benefits of healthy sleep patterns, which include:
- appetite control. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that sleep-deprived people are more likely to choose high-carb foods, snack, and eat late at night than their well-rested counterparts – all destructive when trying to lose weight.
- muscle development. Your muscles cannot repair themselves during waking hours – you need 7-9 concentrated, dedicated hours of sleep for the regenerative processes to kick into full gear. In short: no sleep, no swole.
- anti-inflammatory. Besides the appetite and muscle stuff, sleep is necessary for decreasing inflammation, one of the major causes of weight gain (and prohibitors of weight loss) – and these effects need at least six hours of sleep to turn on.
- fat loss. A University of Chicago study found that dieters with ample sleep lost 56% more body fat than their sleep-deprived counterparts – and didn’t lose any muscle mass, either. Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same hormones, so when your sleep goes down, your metabolism goes along with it – not great when you’re trying to lose.
- get happier. Even one good night’s sleep can help lessen anxious and depressed feelings; emotional stability is closely connected to sleep duration and quality. One caveat here – “bingeing” on sleep over the weekend isn’t enough to lessen symptoms of depression; in fact, this type of deprivation-excess cycle can actually make these symptoms worse.
The more you have on your plate, the harder it is to settle your mind and “wind down” for a good night’s sleep – as a trainer, wellness coach, and small business owner I absolutely understand that. This is where some mindfulness training – whether it’s formal “meditation” or not – can help. I’m a big fan of apps for this – helpful for me since I spend a lot of time commuting on public transit with my headphones on – but going to a meditation center, reading a mindfulness book, or even just sitting for 5 minutes in a quiet room with your eyes closed can get the job done – and set you up for better, more peaceful sleep at night.
I don’t know about you, readers, but all this sleep talk has me ready for a nap (check out a past #AskAmanda for even more specific nap-related tips) – who’s with me?
Are you a religiously good or chronically poor sleeper? What are your best tricks for a good night’s rest?