There is no question that sleep is essential. However, I don’t think most people realize just how important it is. Especially when it comes to your fitness journey.
Whether you are trying to lose weight, add muscle or just be healthier, sleep is foundational to achieving your fitness goals.
To help put it into perspective for you, consider all the evolutionary adaptations humans have made over the millennia, from simple hunter-gatherers to exploring the frontiers of space. There is no question that we have come a long way. But the one thing that we have not been able to evolve out of is the need for sleep. In fact, we haven’t even evolved to need less sleep – even though many seem to think they can operate on just four or five hours and be just fine. However, this is not the case.
In fact, studies have shown that chronically getting less than six hours of sleep has some pretty damaging effects on our physical performance and general health.
From a physical performance standpoint, athletes who are sleep deprived have slower reaction times, less strength and endurance, and recover poorly (this means fewer gains) than those who are getting enough QUALITY sleep (more on quality later).
The long-term health effects of chronic sleep deprivation increase the risk of health issues such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t want to be more prone to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Basically, if you could put all of the benefits of quality sleep into a pill, it would be on the banned substance list. Getting enough quality sleep is the absolute best “performance-enhancing drug,” and it’s available to everyone for FREE.
So, in what ways can you ensure you get enough quality sleep?
Like everything else in your fitness journey and life, it takes some practice and work. I know that sounds odd.
How can sleeping take practice and work?
It’s because you have to break the old habits that are resulting in you being sleep deprived in the first place. How often have you sat in bed scrolling social media until you got tired? I’m willing to bet that some of you reading this article now are doing so on your phones in bed. As trite as it sounds, this is one of the biggest hindrances to you getting enough quality sleep.
Yes, the blue light really is a thing!
The blue light from electronic devices impairs your brain’s secretion of melatonin, a primary hormone for initiating sleep.
But aside from the actual physiological effects, there are psychological effects of scrolling social media while trying to unwind from the day. There is so much content out there that will “amp you up” because it elicits an emotional response.
In my experience, the emotional response to social media isn’t always positive. This causes you to be in a state of excitation, which is the opposite of what we should be doing when trying to sleep for the night.
That’s the biggest thing you can change to start noticing a positive effect on your sleep almost instantly.
Do a digital detox an hour before you go to bed.
You can do other things, but I’m a big fan of changing one habit at a time rather than several significant changes at once.
This is how I coach my clients in nutrition, fitness, and wellness. Pick one thing that they have control over that will have the most significant impact on them.
So, that’s my coaching tip for you all reading this today. Put down the phones, turn off the television, and get back to basics as part of your bedtime routine. Read an old fashioned, meditate, take a hot bath, or shower. Do whatever you find enjoyable that doesn’t involve an electronic screen.
After a few nights, I promise you will start noticing a difference. Then we can work on other habits and even potentially some natural supplements to optimize your sleep and recovery.
But until you master the basics, the rest won’t matter. Goodnight!