Did you know that sleep is one of the most important functions of the human body?
It resets your hormones and allows your body the much earned rest it needs to to repair and function optimally.
You might be thinking, “What in the world does sleep have to do with my overall health and fitness?”
The simple truth is that if you want to lose fat, be healthy, build muscle or be able to bring it in your workouts, then you need to build good sleep habits.
Since sleep is so important, here’s a list of sleep tips that will help you optimize your sleep so you can look, feel and perform your best.
Sleep Tip #1
First, let’s myth-bust.
You constantly hear that you need to get 8 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, that isn’t true.
You see, your body goes through different levels of sleep on a cycle. There are periods of time when you’re just a hair away from being awake and times when you’re so deeply asleep it would take a firecracker on your pillow to wake you.
For most people, these “sleep cycles” tend to last 90 minutes — give or take a few minutes. If you constantly aim for 8 hours of sleep, you’ll almost always set your alarm to go off when you’re diving down into deeper stages of sleep.
Instead of waking up feeling absolutely awesome and ready to take on the world, you wonder who glued your eyelids shut and just how many times you can get away with setting the snooze.
That doesn’t make for a very good morning!
Instead of aiming for the age-old standby of 8 hours, try sleeping for the following amount of hours:
MINIMUM —–> 6 hours
GET THIS DAILY —–> 7 1/2 hours
TRY GETTING THIS AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK —–> 9 hours
Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that you need to get 9 hours of sleep every night. That kind of sleep is more for world-class athletes.
What I am suggesting is that you get a MINIMUM of 6 hours, aim for making 7 1/2 the norm, and try your hardest to get a few nights of 9 hours occasionally.
If you wake up feeling great, then you nailed it and found your sleep cycle. If you feel OK but not perfect, test out an 85-minute sleep cycle or a 95-minute sleep cycle instead.
You’ll know you’ve found your magic number when you wake up feeling great. From then on, aim for getting sleep based on that number and enjoy feeling great every day!
Sleep Tip #2
Good sleep isn’t just about quantity; it’s also about quality.
If you aren’t getting the best sleep each night, it’s time to troubleshoot some of the most common problems. Let’s look at a few different things that can lower your sleep quality and leave you dragging your arse the next day.
Melatonin is a hormone that drives you to sleep at night. If yours is low, you might end up counting sheep ’till the sun comes up. There are some simple things that might be effecting this happy little sleep hormone.
Light in your bedroom can reduce sleep quality dramatically. Even a dime-sized fiber optic light on the back of your KNEE in an otherwise pitch black room still decreases melatonin and increases cortisol production.
That’s right. Your photo-receptors — cells that detect light on your skin — send a signal to your brain that it should turn down the production of sleepy little melatonin. With that little amount of light, the photo-receptors assume the sun is rising and that you want to rise with it.
When light sets off the process of waking, melatonin drops as cortisol — another hormone that gets your body going — starts to rise. When melatonin drops and cortisol rises, no more quality sleep for you… period!
Knowing this, we should conclude that melatonin obviously likes darkness and makes us fall asleep while cortisol obviously likes light and makes us wake up. Which give you a few tools you can use to make sure each hormone is highest at the right time.
First, get some room-darkening shades or put a dark blanket up over your windows — especially if you live in the city!
This will ensure that your happy little melatonin will be tucked in and enjoying the dark.
Second, reduce unwanted cortisol even further by following these guidelines…
Cortisol increases in proportion to the amount of electromagnetic frequencies (or EMF’s for short) around you.
Unfortunately, almost everything in our modern world produces EMF’s — light sockets, electrical outlets, your cell phone and your cell phone charger, wi-fi internet waves, radio waves, etc.
You can’t get rid of EMF’s, but you can reduce them without turning into the boy in the aluminum foil bubble.
To optimize your sleep, unplug all the electronics around your bed. Get rid of your bedroom TV, take an hour before bed to read and decompress (this will help the melatonin, too), and make sure your alarm clock and cell phone are on the other side of the room while you sleep.
Sleep Tip #3
Do you best to go to bed when the sun goes down and get up when the sun comes up.
I realize this step may be impossible because of your job, family, or whatever. If you can’t do this right now, no worries. Just follow the above two tips and keep this one in mind for the time when you can use it.
Think about the way we developed as a species. Did we stay up all night? Did we watch the boob tube (TV) until right before we went to sleep? The answer to both of these questions is an absolute, “NO!”
Our ancestors went to bed a couple hours after the sun went down and woke up when it came up.
So, why are we so disconnected with nature’s messages around us? Why do we stay up sometimes until the wee hours watching goofy shows and then complain about being in a brain fog all day long?
We do it because it’s the way we were raised. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, my family watched TV shows together until right before I went to bed. When I got older, I kept the same habit. The problem is, it isn’t a good habit.
Before moving on, I want you to know I’m not asking you to go to bed at 7pm and get up at 7am — that’s completely unrealistic.
If you go to bed a few hours after the sun goes down and wake up when the sun comes up, you’ll still get all the benefits.
Over the course of an average year, following a sunrise/sunset pattern will look something like this (depending on where you live):
– In the summer you should go to bed around 11pm and wake up with the sun.
– In the winter you should go to bed around 9:30pm and wake up with the sun.
If you can roughly follow this guideline and flow through the seasons, you will dramatically increase the quality of your sleep which will help you look feel and perform even better.
As far as waking up, If you’re fortunate enough to not need an alarm clock to wake up, good for you. Sometimes I have the opportunity of waking up naturally, and I love how great I feel on those days.
However, I can’t expect everyone out there to shun their jobs and lives in order to optimize their sleep. Simply do the best you can and take advantage of the times when you can wake up naturally.
Good Luck! Now, go get some sleep!
QUICK LESSON RECAP: Sleep a minimum of 6 hours a night and aim to make 7.5 hours the minimum. Work on finding your own unique sleep cycle (usually around 90 minutes) and use this when planning a nights sleep. You will know you have nailed your sleep cycle when you wake up feeling great! Sleep in a dark room and avoid electronics for a minimum of 30 minutes before bed. Try to go to bed within 2-3 hours of the sun going down.
Boom goes another easy habit that will change your life 🙂