What if I offered you a performance enhancer that improved endurance by 30%, reduced your risk of injury, improved focus, appetite control, emotional regulation and creativity. As well as increased libido, stress management capabilities and productivity in the work place.
You’d certainly want to hear more wouldn’t you?
What if I told you it actually improved your health, was free, legal and you’d have access to it 24/7 as well? I’d certainly be putting my hand up!
The amazing thing is we have and have had access to this our whole lives - sleep.
Sleep is the most under used and under rated tool when it comes to improving your health and fitness. It’s probably more important than exercising and more important than your diet too. Yet many of us completely neglect it and pride ourselves on ‘grinding’ on less than 5-6 hours a night.
With many work places demanding this ludicrous sort of lifestyle. Some people genuinely believe they don’t need more than 6 hours sleep a night and get by fine on just that. However a plethora of research says otherwise.
If you are a human being, you consistently need 7.5-8 hours sleep a night. No exceptions. To many this seems too much. ‘I couldn’t possibly do that, by the time I get back from work blah blah blah’. We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. Unfortunately your health doesn’t care.
So if you care about being as healthy as you can be, it’s imperative you find ways to increase the hours you spend staring at the back of your eyelids. 7.5 hours sleep a night means falling asleep at 10:30 and waking up at 6. If you don’t have kids and ridiculous work schedule, this is very achievable.
The problem most people have is switching off. We are constantly stimulated - lights, noise, food, phones, TV’s. All of these too late in the day make it extremely hard to doze off, our bodies need to slowly wind down in the evening for us to get to sleep efficiently. Staring at our phones or watching people get their heads chopped off on Game of Thrones doesn’t allow for this and keeps adrenaline too high, and doesn't allow for the release of melatonin, which starts the process of sleep in our bodies.
So how best to get to sleep? What ways can you prime the body so that when your head hits the pillow, you’re out?
Here are my top 3 ways;
1- No blue light an hour before bed. No phone, no TV. You can watch your show the next day and returning those e-mails and messages can wait for the morning. Spend an hour reading, meditating or, god forbid, chatting to your spouse.
2- Take a warm shower 1-2 hours before bed. The warm water causes our blood vessels to dilate and in turn drops our body temperature, something which is necessary for a deep sleep.
3- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. The bodies natural body clock (known as your circadian rhythm) functions far better if your sleep/wake cycle is constant. Setting the alarm 3 hours later on a Saturday is essentially jet lagging your body every week and will lead to fatigue come Monday morning.
These are very easy to implement, but can have grand effects. So stop underestimating the importance of sleep. Put the phone down, turn the TV off, shut the laptop - they can all be put on pause, but your health can’t.
Mark is a Movement Specialist, Nutritionist and Health Coach that has an enormous passion to help make everyone he works with healthier. In his opinion, a healthier life is a better life and he aims to inspire and educate his clients to take care of the way they move, breathe, eat, sleep, train and recover to ensure they are getting the most out of their bodies.