Rest and recovery are just as important to body composition as training is to diet. When your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, you will be adversely affected, though the consequences may not be immediate. A lack of sleep will prevent you from performing your best at the gym or your workout, as your body will not be able to adequately recover and adapt to meet the demands you’re placing on it. There are a few things to take note of the importance of sleep and what happens if you don’t get enough of it. Ultimate Performance personal trainer Matthew Leeb shares five practices that promote a restful night’s sleep.
What are the consequences of a bad night’s sleep?
First, a lack of sleep impacts the function of your hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin which can lead to increased appetite and cravings. Second, a lack of sleep diminishes your ability to regulate blood sugar which results in a condition known as insulin resistance. Essentially, that means your body becomes ineffective at partitioning resources which will inevitably lead to more fat storage. Bearing these consequences in mind, improving sleep is a crucial step towards obtaining (or maintaining) optimum wellbeing and physique. Here’s some simple practices to improve sleep hygiene.
Be strategic about what you consume before bed
Avoid consuming stimulants or simple sugars and instead opt for a meal or snack that contains protein and starchy carbohydrates. Protein provides the raw materials for the amino acid tryptophan, a brain chemical essential to creating serotonin which helps you to calm down and regulates sleep. The inclusion of carbohydrates magnifies this effect by increasing the availability of tryptophan and also another brain chemical involved with relaxation—serotonin. Examples of ideal meals could include steak and brown rice for dinner or snacks like cheese and whole-grain crackers, or cottage cheese.
Integrate magnesium into your pre-sleep routine
Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in nerve and muscle function. It has a positive effect on sleep by binding to the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which is responsible for calming your nervous system and preparing you to fall asleep. Before supplementing, consider consuming more foods containing magnesium like green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans. If you still suspect deficiencies, try supplementing with 130-300mg per day; beginning at the lower end of the spectrum and increasing as necessary.
Prepare your sleep environment
Set an environment that helps you feel relaxed, calm, and ready to sleep by removing any external factors that may cause distractions or wakefulness—like electronics and mobile phones. Typically these include light, noise, and increased temperature devices. Reduce your exposure to natural and blue light before and during sleep by using blackout curtains (if possible) or a sleeping mask and ensure that electronic devices are put away 60-90 minutes prior to going to bed. Limit external noise by blocking it out with earplugs or drowning it out with ‘white noise’ (like that from a fan or thunderstorm). Prevent body temperature discomfort during sleep by keeping the environment cool and by using an appropriately-sized duvet to avoid overheating or getting too cold.
Practice a consistent nighttime sleep protocol
A sleep routine will allow you to predictably relax and achieve restful sleep every night. Although this is subjective to the individual, some suggestions include taking a warm bath, mindful breathing/meditation, reading a paperback book, or listening to calming music. A way to reduce stress is to write down any troubling thoughts into a journal before bed, and the ways to solve the issues on your mind. This is a great way to calm down the racing thoughts before bed as a “mind dump journal” to improve peace of mind before bed and reduce anxiety.
Get sunlight earlier in the day
Seeking daylight earlier in the day is just as important as avoiding blue/artificial light later in the day. This is all in an effort to train your circadian rhythm to follow the pattern of the day and appropriately release necessary hormones and neurotransmitters. For this reason, attempt to achieve 30-90 minutes of exposure to sunlight before noon each day. If that is not realistic, then a ‘daylight lamp’ that mimics sunlight would be a suitable replacement.
For more information on meeting your weight and fitness goals or to learn more about Ultimate Performance, check out upfitness.com.hk.