Today, I want to take a little deeper of a dive into the importance of improving your sleep habits as you get back into your gym routine. Sleep is the king of all recovery modalities, so if you’re serious about having effective and efficient gym sessions, listen up. The first thing I’d like to mention is the ideal length of time you should be sleeping. Most research will tell you somewhere between 7-9 hours a night is ideal. Although these numbers are great snapshots, I’m more concerned about the overall quality of your sleep as opposed to the quantity. Two reasons I say this: 1) some people (especially new parents) have schedules that don’t allow them to sleep a continuous 8 hours 2) I believe a quality 6 hours will have you feeling more refreshed than a tossing-and-turning 8 hours. Focusing on sleep quality is not an excuse to sleep less, though, it’s still important to aim for 7-9 hours. So, let’s walk through a few steps that will ensure a higher quality of sleep on a nightly basis.
One of the most important things to realize is that your sleep quality is a culmination of your habits and choices throughout the day. A few of the easiest ways to improve your sleep quality are to spend time outside throughout the day, eliminate caffeine after mid-day, exercise, and refrain from eating a large meal too close to bed time. Focusing on these 4 things throughout the day will help you become more in-tune with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
Next, let’s move to some things you can do before bed to improve your sleep quality. One of the easiest things you can do to see drastic improvements in your sleep is to change your sleeping environment. When you sleep, your room should have absolutely no light. I like to use electrical tape to cover up the LED lights on my clocks, fans, and chargers. Along the same lines, you should try to implement a no-screens rule (phones, laptops, etc.) for yourself about an hour before you’re ready to go to sleep. The blue-light emitted by screens decreases the amount of melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel tired, released by your brain. If this seems impossible for you, blue-light blocking glasses can be an effective alternative. The next thing you should do before you go to sleep is turn the temperature down. While you’re sleeping your body temperature naturally decreases. So, I recommend keeping your house between 60-65 degrees while you’re sleeping. Studies show that sleeping in a cold room leads to more continuous, deeper sleep throughout the night.
Lastly, I want to mention one supplement that I have found success with in regards to sleep: magnesium. Personally, melatonin (the most common sleep-inducer you will find marketed) doesn’t seem to work for me except for in higher doses which I don’t feel comfortable taking regularly. So, I turned to magnesium which is an essential mineral that can effectively relax your body. I personally recommend somewhere between 200-400 mg about 20 minutes before going to bed. If you are taking medication, please consult your physician before implementing any supplements into your daily routine. Overall, following these guidelines should put you on the fast-track to higher quality sleep, better recovery, and more efficient and effective gyms sessions.
Fitness Professional, Matt Rucinski
Interested in learning more? Contact Matt or one of our other great Personal Trainers to figure out how to get more physical activity and/or exercise into your lifestyle.