Most of us can clearly recognize that sleep is necessary to our physical and mental health… but WHY do we sleep? HOW much do we need? WHEN do we need it? WHAT takes place physically when we are asleep? LEARN all of this and More in today’s BLOG on sleep!…including 6 TIPS you can implement TODAY to develop better sleep habits TONIGHT. 

TROUBLE SLEEPING? Sleep & exercise make the perfect pair as exercise will improve the quality of your sleep and improved sleep will increase the quality and effectiveness of your workouts. Several studies demonstrated that strength training has the greatest effect on improving your ability to fall asleep. But all forms of physical exercises greatly improved the quality and duration of sleep, especially for those who are light sleepers. TIP #1: Sleep More to Exercise Better and Exercise More to Sleep Better! 

EXERCISE MORE…OR SLEEP MORE? Most of us find ourselves so busy that it’s often a battle between choosing to exercise more or to sleep more, as if two of the most important factors to our health and quality of life were somehow “negotiable”. The answer of which should come first depends on who I’m talking to. I have a lot of athlete’s that think they are never doing enough. I have to remind them all the time to take their rest and recovery as seriously as they do their training. (FUN FACT: proper recovery=more gym gains). On the other hand, someone who performs light-to-moderate exercise, has a less active job and/or pretty sedentary hobbies is probably more rested than worked. This person may benefit from a little more exercise, even if it means they have to sacrifice some sleep to make a workout happen. TIP #2: Listen to Your Body. Honor Your Priorities. Schedule Your Sleep Accordingly (in Advance) or it Probably Wont Happen.

ARE NAPS OKAY? Lets talk about it. Naps. The evidence is clear, napping done correctly has numerous health benefits BUT they have their place… so here are some Do’s and Don’ts: 

  • DO nap when absolutely necessary to avoid dangerous situations such as drowsy driving.
  • DON’T nap when you’re bored or depressed as it usually leads to napping for too long leaving you feeling worse.
  • DO nap mid afternoon during that “3’ o clock feeling” as it may help you recharge and refocus to be more productive and happier during the latter part of your day. 
  • DON’T nap in the late afternoon or early evening as it can disrupt your ability to sleep through the night.
  • DO nap for 20-30 minutes as it has been shown to improve alertness, productivity and clarity while decreasing blood pressure, feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
  • DON’T take long naps …they will leave you feeling groggier than before, more anxious and can lead to adverse health effects. 

TIP #3: Naps are a supplement, not the whole meal. Don’t think napping replaces your need for 6-9 hours of UNINTERRUPTED sleep. 

SLEEP HYGENE: TIP #4: Avoid Hyper Stimulating Activities Before Bed. This means Avoid competitive exercises 2-3 hours before bed, Avoid taking stimulants too close to bed, and in general avoid stressing reminders of the day behind you or day ahead. Be RESTFUL in the moment, and if you cannot try journaling your restless thoughts or reading.

BLUE LIGHT: TIP #5: Exposure to Electronics and TV Should Be Avoided Too Close to Bed (especially within 30 minutes). The blue light emitted from our screens suppresses melatonin, a key hormone in regulating our sleep. Plus, double whammy, we typically use our devices for stimulating activities. Not only will the blue light hinder your natural sleep hormones, if you accidentally come across a devastating text, or open up that late night work email that gets you stressed out, or maybe scroll past a news article that gets your blood boiling then you’re going to have a harder time falling asleep.

GAINS BRO: A word to my Meatheads, Iron Junkies and Other Primates. Still think sleep is for the weak? Well did you know you could be reducing your muscular potential by more than half? Yeah! Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to contribute to a physique that is 60% less muscular than what is otherwise achievable. You’ve done the vigorous training and you’ve committed to dedicated dieting! Maybe those biceps your chasing or that deadlift max you want so badly isn’t hiding in some new training technique or some meal plan secret. Maybe gains are hiding on the other side of some consistent sleep habits.  It has been shown that sleep not only helps you recover by generating that new muscle tissue but also improves the activity of neuromuscular junctions resulting in greater strength potential, faster reaction times and improved coordination!! TIP #6: Consider Sleep an Essential Part of Your Training Regimen. 

Up until half a century ago most scientists were convinced that sleep was simply a passive physiological state in which we rested and recovered from the previous day. Turns out that is only half true, and while rest and recovery is a major component of sleep, our body’s physiology actually becomes very active during sleep. 

As we initially drift off we enter a very light stage of sleep (phases 1&2). Here the brain produces alpha and theta waves, which slow down eye movement and prepare the body for the next stages of sleep. Then, the brain increases frequency for a short period of time before beginning to slow down where it will enter Stage 3. This is the FIRST STAGE of DEEP sleep where there is very little eye movement, and it is during this time that a large degree of the restorative processes of the physical body take place– we Build Muscle during this stage, Repair Damaged Tissue, Ramp up our Immune Defense and Generate Energy for the following day. Stage 4 is what is known as REM or rapid eye movement sleep and this is when a majority of dreaming takes place, why we dream is still largely a mystery but its during this phase that long term memories are stored—and skills we learn become PERMANENT.  Without this phase of sleep we almost auto delete new information and we would be unable to really learn anything! It has been generalized that REM sleep is the goal of sleep but as far as recovery from exercise it is the previous state of deep sleep where our body actually recovers the most. Ideally we should get 4-5 sleep cycles per night to perform optimally the next day. Individual needs vary and sleep cycle duration can vary too…but a full sleep cycle typically averages about 90 minutes for adults, which means our target should be 6-9 hours of sleep. 

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