Sleep Your Way to a Better Body

Between step counting, rep counting, and scrutinizing every calorie we’ll consume we should have everything covered in regards to achieving our fitness goals. If we eat the right foods and train the right way, then clearly we’ll get to the place we so desire to go; or so we think. What we need isn’t to be seen with our critical eyes, rather, we must truly close our eyes, and leave them closed, to prosper.

There may be no element more critical to short-term or long-term success than sleep.

Each and every day provides a high amount of stimulation that pushes our brain and our body. The workouts that tear down your muscles, the commute that winds down the highway, and the constant push to make your breathe mean something all amounts to accumulating stress.

That stress can be mitigated quite easily by focusing on the amount and quality of sleep you are getting on a nightly basis. This directive doesn’t come as a surprise though, as most people know they should be spending more time in a dream-state and less chasing simple muses at night.

An increase in sleep quality and quantity has been shown to:

  1. Decrease Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Obesity, Hypertension, Anxiety, and Depression
  2. Increase muscle recovery – leading to increases in size, strength, and endurance in trained individuals
  3. Increased memory retention, alertness and focus.
  4. Decreased cravings, managed appetite and mood, and an overall decrease in body fat.

So, how can you apply this immediately?

How can you start working on the amount and quality of your sleep tonight?

Amount

  1. Go to bed fifteen minutes earlier tonight and hold that new time throughout the week. A simple fifteen-minute head start can help you fall into your first REM (rapid-eye-movement) earlier once you are asleep. Most REM cycles last a little over 90 minutes and are what leads to recovery and restfulness.
  2. Next week add an extra fifteen minutes. Within seven days you’ll have added about two hours of sleep to your weekly total by simply manipulating the front-end of your sleep. Jumping this up to a half-hour earlier per night will take your weekly total up to nearly four hours of extra sleep.
  3. Continue this trend as it works with your life and you stabilize at a healthy time that becomes your new normal.
  4. Schedule a weekend morning (if you can) that you don’t awake to an alarm. Allow yourself to come out of sleep naturally instead of being ripped from your comfortable place again.
  5. Make sure that your sleeping area is conducive to a good night sleep. If your mattress is too hard or soft for your body and you are waking up with a stiff back or neck it may be time to make a change. Maybe you should get yourself a very comfortable Robert Irvine body Pillow.

Quality

  1. Avoid that snooze button at all costs. The back and forth of alertness can leak long into your day and push you towards more caffeine than you truly need. Moreover, the anxiety of contemplating your next alarm is never a healthy way to start a day.
  2. That TV show, video game, or movie you are hooked on doing before bed is making it harder for you to fall asleep. The high frame rate of the pictures moving activates your cortexes and makes you stay in a more “fight-or-flight” state. Cut these off about an hour before bedtime.
  3. That cell phone, laptop, or tablet in bed with all of the lights off? Yeah, that should go too. These devices emit a blue light that messes with the day/night sensor in our brain. Our body starts losing track of the need for sleep and can leave you tossing and turning for a long time.
  4. The bedroom, or at the very least, your bed should be your sanctuary for relaxation. Having clothes all over the room, or trash on the night stand does not lend itself to being able to just wind down and sleep. Save your bed for intimacy and sleep.
  5. Drink about four ounces of water before bed, and about eight upon waking. Staying hydrated can improve the quality of your sleep, the ease of your dreams, and prevent that funky headache that can linger for hours into your morning.

 

Sleep is the Holy Grail of your fitness and health. There are sets and repetitions that matter, sure. Pizza and French fries aren’t good choices either. Yet, if you aren’t prioritizing your recovery, then your body will feel as though it is doing these things. Close your eyes and begin to recover.

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