Sleep is a hot topic these days, and has been for a while. We probably all know by now that sleep is good, and is the time when our body recovers and regenerates. We all know we should sleep more (at least 8 hours a night for most), but life can get in our way. It’s estimated that 50 to 70 million (yes, million) Americans suffer from a sleep disorder and chronically do not get enough sleep. And it’s summer! The increased daylight hours and endless amount of summer activities make it even harder to stick to a consistent bedtime. Here are some ways to improve your sleep, and some consequences of what can happen if you don’t.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night. This sets the body’s internal clock and makes it easier to wake up for work (or that early morning workout you’ve been meaning to go to). Try to stick to this routine the best that you can on weekends to avoid a Monday morning sleep “hangover.”
- Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine. An hour before you want to be asleep partake in restful activities, such as taking a bath, practicing meditation, or reading a book. Avoid stressful and stimulating activities, such as doing work or discussing heavy emotional issues. Stress will produce cortisol, which increases alertness and makes it harder to get the restful sleep we need.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that hinder sleep. Avoid caffeinated beverages and foods 4-6 hours before it’s time to sleep. Similarly, avoid alcoholic beverages and tobacco products 3 hours before bedtime. Even though a nice glass of wine or a single beer after dinner might seem relaxing, after a few hours alcohol acts as a stimulant and can cause disruption in your sleep cycles.
- Avoid eating right before bedtime. Try to finish your dinner several hours before you go to sleep. If you are starving right before you go to sleep, try snacking on foods that won’t disturb sleep or cause indigestion (such as carbohydrates).
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment. Dark shades, a cool but comfortable temperature (between 60 and 75 degrees fahrenheit), and a white noise machine (or fan) are all things that can help promote good rest. Try to keep TVs and computers (and even cell phones) out of the bedroom to tell the brain that the bedroom is for sleep, not work.
- Workout! Exercise can strengthen your circadian rhythm, and stimulate longer periods of slow-wave sleep (the deepest and most restorative phase of sleep). This will help you get the best quality sleep each night. Come to CrossFit! Get out and go on a run! Do yoga!
Consequences of too little sleep or bad quality sleep (the bad stuff):
- Memory Issues: Lack of sleep will impair your memory, making it hard for you to remember simple, everyday tasks.
- Mood Changes: This could include depressed mood, excessive mental distress, anxiety, and increased alcohol use. Chronic sleep loss can influence your mental state just as much (if not more) than your physical state.
- Weakened immunity: When you sleep, your immune system produces infection fighting substances that your body needs to stay healthy and fight bacteria and viruses. When you suffer from too little sleep, your body has trouble fighting off small infections. Chronic sleep deprivation also increases your risk for illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
- Obesity: Multiple studies have found a positive relationship between sleep loss and obesity, in both adults and children. This is due to an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol. Because of this, those who are sleep deprived will probably notice an increase in appetite and some unhealthy food cravings. So, too little sleep can equal too much food intake throughout the day.
So, go home and get to bed! Just kidding (sort of), but it is important to figure out how to create a good sleep schedule for yourself so you can get the rest your body needs!
If you ever want to talk sleep, strategies, and things you can do to get more of it, reach out! We typically lump sleep strategies into our nutrition consults because quality sleep has so much to do with just about any body composition goal – weight loss, muscle gain, etc.