We all know that sleep is important and that it is good for us. What might not be so clear, is what exactly it is important for (other than to help us not be tired), how much to get, and how to get better at it. Most adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and yet, many do not get that much.
Why do we need sleep??
Sleep is the most important part of any type of training program. The body finally has a chance to recover from the days’ stressors. Hormones have the chance to balance out, body processes can work properly, and muscles can begin to recover. Athletes who sleep less than 8 hours a night are actually more prone to injury than ones who sleep longer. So not only do you wake up feeling less tired and with more energy, your hormones, metabolism, and muscles will be ready to take on the day. You can eat right and work as hard as anyone in the gym, but without sleep, you will not see the results you are looking for.
How much is enough??
Every person is going to be different with how they sleep. Such as how deep they sleep, how fast they fall asleep, if they wake up a bunch, and how much they need to function properly. There are, however, guidelines for each age group and the general recommendation for hours of sleep. Some people think that sleep can be ‘made up’ on the weekends by sleeping in. This is not quite the truth. Your body will go into a sleep debt if you do not get enough hours in, but making it up by staying in bed all day, will not be the fix you need. On the other hand, naps have proven to be very effective at helping the body slowly replenish that sleep debt. A half hour nap here or there will work wonders, especially for athletes, or anyone who is extremely active.
How do we increase sleep quality??
Sleep quality is probably the most important part of the equation. If you sleep really well, you can probably get away with 7 hours, but if you sleep poorly, you’ll probably be closer to 9. There’s a lot of different ways to get yourself to consistently get enough time in bed, such as setting a bedtime and wake-up time to be the same every day, calculating backward from whatever time you need to get up, and more. But just because you’re in bed doesn’t mean you’ll sleep well.
I have had trouble with sleep for as long as I can remember and so I’ve tried many different ways to help myself get better. Here are a few things that work:
- take out distractions – I took the TV out of my room about 6 years ago, and it’s been wonderful.
- make it dark – the only light (aside from the moon) in my room is the little one from my smoke detector (safety first!)
- use your bed for only a few things – you should not be hanging out, eating, working, etc., in your bed. this will train you and your body that when you are in bed, you are meant to be sleeping.
- keep your room tidy – when my room is a mess, it creates an amount of stress and anxiety that doesn’t fully allow relaxation
- if there’s things on your brain, write them down – getting thoughts out of your head and on paper helps you to stop obsessing over them while you’re sleeping
- have a specific bedtime routine – for me, I shower at night, and put on my jammies before I relax a little bit. This helps me transition from relaxing on the couch to sleeping without getting all riled up again by doing too much right before I go to lay down.
Those are just a few things that have helped me (along with my weighted blanket and essential oil diffuser) get better at sleeping. Hopefully you can find a routine that works for you, and get your body better at doing what it does!