8 Habits to Build a Better Night’s Sleep
The following is a guest post by James Garland of Fit & Strong Dads:
Sleep, along with training and nutrition, is one of the three pillars of a healthy body. Each pillar is as equally important as the others, and if even one of them is neglected, your body will never function to it’s true potential. Despite the importance of a restful night’s sleep, the statistics made available to us from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a large percentage of the U.S. population simply doesn’t get an adequate amount of sleep each night. In fact number of sleep deprived citizens is estimated to be between 50-70 million people.
This is a problem because a lack of sleep will quickly mess up your hormonal profile, including the lowering of key muscle-building and recovery hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. This alone will leave you more prone to putting on fat, slow your recovery, and make gains in both strength and muscle hard to come by.
The key to improving both your quantity and quality of sleep is developing better bedtime habits. By doing this, you will teach your body that it’s time to shut down for the night, and markedly improve your sleep quality over the long term – without the need for pills, prescriptions, or even expensive sleep apnea tests.
Outlined below are actionable steps that you can take immediately in order to better prepare your body for sleep. Give these wind down tricks a trial for at least one week and I’m sure sleep quality will improve out of sight. If it doesn’t improve in the first week, don’t worry. Different people respond to habitual intervention at different rates, and you might just need to give it a little longer.
1) Set a regular bedtime.
Remember, building better habits is a crucial part of improving sleep quality, and one of those habits is going to bed around the same time each and every night. When sleep becomes a part of a regular routine, then falling asleep on time becomes infinitely easier.
2) Make your bedroom as dark as possible.
Think about it - we were designed to sleep in dark caves, with no artificial light around us. Our sleep is markedly improved when we lay in a room that is pitch black. The less light you can let in to your room, the better. Sometimes, even a dull glow from an alarm clock is enough to disrupt our sleep patterns, so aim to get rid of every little bit of light from your room.
3) Turn off all electronic devices an hour or two before bed.
This means no laptop, no TV, no iPad/Pod, or anything else before bed. The luminous displays from said electronic devices have been shown to suppress melatonin production – a key ingredient to a good night’s rest.
4) Apply some magnesium oil.
Magnesium is a known sleep-boosting mineral. The problem with most oral-based magnesium supplements, however, is that they aren’t absorbed optimally. To get the most out of magnesium you need to rub it into your skin, and that’s where magnesium oil comes in. The best time to do it is right after your nightly shower.
5) Read before bed, but nothing too stimulating.
I personally find that autobiographies are great bedtime reads. They help you wind down, but don’t get your mind racing like some fiction novels do, which can be counter to a deep sleep.
Going through a series of static stretches, preferably after a warm shower, will help mellow out your body and make you feel good in general. This will translate to better sleep, and you’ll also start to get rid of those niggling areas of pain.
7) Get out in the sun.
Get at least fifteen minutes of direct sunshine every day. This will help increase your melatonin levels, which will improve your quality of sleep. It will also save your from having to turn to melatonin supplements in order to sleep better.
8) Drink some chamomile tea half an hour before sleep.
Chamomile has been shown to reduce anxiety and help relax the body. Outside of that, I don’t know of many things more relaxing than sitting with a warm cup of tea and slowly sipping away at it as you prepare for bed.
Getting a full night of quality sleep will lead to better gains in both performance and aesthetics. Remember that getting a better night’s rest is built upon good bedtime habits, and actively seek to improve these. You’ll end up with a clearer mind during the day, and a better body, to boot.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
2. Wood, B, MS Rea, B Plitnick, and MG Figueiro. "Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression." Applied Ergonomics 44 (July 31, 2012): 237-40.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.