Why sleep is important in your complete fitness journey
The last part of the complete fitness mini-series is about sleep.
The more we learn about sleep, the more we realise its importance. From a weight-loss perspective, it might be the piece of the puzzle that is holding you back.
When embarking on a health and fitness goal, we shouldn’t be relying on motivation alone and beating ourselves up when we don’t achieve what we want to. Instead, we need to use all our other tools to clear our path of obstructions; sleep is one such tool.
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When we’re tired the part of the brain involved in thoughtful judgements doesn’t work as well; if we’re sleep deprived then we’re more likely to go for more calorie-dense foods. Also, because of hormones, you’ll feel more hungry and less full.
Here are some tips you can implement right away to ensure you get great sleep:
Exercise can help you get to sleep quicker, stay asleep longer and improve the quality of sleep. Even walking for 10 minutes a day will have benefits. Just be careful not to exercise within a couple of hours of your bedtime. This is to allow enough time for your mind and body to wind down.
Reduce artificial lighting and in particular the light given off by screens before bedtime. Set a time where you stop using your phone or use dimmable lighting. More light in the morning will also help. Sunlight is the best, so try and get out first thing if you can. If that’s not possible, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamps can be a great alternative.
This will look different for everyone; essentially you are trying to relax and clear your mind. For busy minds, doing a brain dump is recommended. Whether that’s planning tomorrow’s activities or simply getting all your thoughts on to paper. Another great one is stretching before bed.
If you find you wake up a lot or struggle to switch off before bed there may be a mental health issue holding you back. Sometimes you can resolve the issue by yourself but you may need the help of a service such as counselling.
Alcohol and caffeine intake
Although you may find alcohol helps you get to sleep, it greatly reduces the quality of the sleep. You’ll also wake up more often. Caffeine too can massively disrupt your sleep cycles – try to avoid it after mid-afternoon.
For most people 7-9 hours of sleep is needed. There are some people who don’t need this much, but they’re rare.
You’ll need to experiment to find out what works for you.
When you’re assessing how you feel the next day, make sure you’re not just feeling great because of other factors such as caffeine or things like the nervous energy that comes with anxiety. Factor in how long it takes you to get to sleep when calculating your bedtime and try to go to bed and wake up the same time each day (including weekends).
Sleep is just one of the areas I work on with personal training clients. For more information on my services, head to www.olliebooth.com