Taking proactive steps toward a better night’s rest will help you to exercise more and feel better. Lack of sleep can make us feel sluggish and grumpy, but there are more benefits to good sleep than having more energy.
How Much Is Enough?
The recommended sleep duration by the National Sleep Foundation for adults is 7 to 9 hours per night. Which is the duration I suggest to my clients and discuss with my students. Pretty often I get the feedback that such a long duration is hard to accomplish. Especially my students admit that they hardly ever get even close to this time span ;o)
Which is in line with current data: Only 48% of the US adult population reports sleeping more than 7 hrs/night.
Why Does Sleep Matter?
Research suggests that habitual short sleep may influence obesity-risk behaviors, such as increased caloric intake, decreased physical activity and increased engagement in sedentary activities (e.g., media consumption, computer usage).
It’s kind of simple and straight forward – if you sleep a short duration, your body is more likely to be less rested and in need of extra energy. Somehow you need enough calories to sustain your daily tasks, and even more for physical activities. You are more likely to turn towards high caloric foods, such as those being high in fat and sugar.
Long Term Sleep Patterns
In a 2019 published study done on Chinese adults, 21,958 participants aged 30 to 79 years reported their sleep duration. During 8.0 ± 0.8 years of follow-up, participants who reported sleeping ≤ 6 hours had higher risk for significant weight gain than those who slept 7 hours.
These findings match the current recommendation to get at least 7 hours per night, and even more if you are physically active and train regularly.
Less Sleep, More Risk
Keep in mind that inadequate sleep does not only have an impact on your waist line. Current research underlines the concept that inadequate sleep (too little, <6 hrs/ night and too much, > 9 hrs/ night) might heighten your cardiovascular risk and influence other health factors as well.
Hypertension, Coronary Heart Disease and Cerebrovascular Disease were more often reported in those without a healthy sleep hygiene.
How Can You Improve Your Sleep?
There are several good sleep hygiene practices which can help you to fall asleep more easily and improve your good nighttime sleep quality.
-) Stay away from screens at least 30 minutes before your bed time.
Use these 30 minutes to prep your gear for the next day’s workout, meal-prep your health food for the next day, or simply read a book or do gentle yoga. This is my favorite suggestion.
-) Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine.
The more regular your bedtime, the easier it is for your body to fall asleep. This is not always possible, but if you can, shoot for the same time frame you go to bed eg. between 9 and 10 pm.
Top 10 Sleep Hygiene Practices
1) If you have difficulties falling asleep, avoid staring at your clock.
Instead, remind yourself of positive happenings during your day. Avoid worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow.
2) Your bed is your place to sleep.
Eating or watching TV are to be done somewhere else.
3) Avoid consuming a large amount of liquids in the evening.
A full bladder is a strong trigger to wake you up. Drink up in the first half of the day and in the afternoon.
4) Rich foods or an empty stomach might disrupt your sleep.
Especially if you exercise in the evening, finish your day with a light meal. Choose a snack high in protein, moderate in healthy carbs, and low in fat. Ideally 2 hours before you go to bed.
5) Stay away from daytime naps if you have troubles falling asleep or sleeping through the night.
Naps during the day might increase your energy and mood afterwards, but might reduce your ability to fall asleep at night.
6) Stimulants in coffee, black tea or large amounts of alcohol are better avoided several hours before bedtime.
Too much alcohol close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.
7) Go outside daily – ensure adequate exposure to natural light.
Exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
8) Exercising to promote good quality sleep.
Regular physical activity such as walking or cycling early in the morning or in the early afternoon can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality. Avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime.
9) Leave any emotional stress outside your bedroom.
If anything bothers you, finish your day with a light stretching routine, and push negative thoughts aside.
10) Make notes of your thoughts.
Write down which worries leave you laying awake in bed, or those which keep you awake during the night. Make ‘mental notes’ and write them down in the morning.
Get More Sleep
Prolonged working hours, increased environmental lighting, and new communication technologies, which enable living “around the clock” make it hard for us to get up well rested in the morning.
You might not be able to change certain circumferences, but you are the one who can steer your lifestyle towards a healthy balance between increasing demands and a good quality bed time routine.