Better Sleep for Better Training
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 15 seconds.
THE AMAZING BENEFITS OF SLEEP
Back in the 1980’s, Margaret Thatcher stated that she only needed four hour’s sleep on workdays in order to do her job, it split public opinion considerably. People questioned how was it conceivable to run a country on so little sleep? It is rumoured that she also subjected many of her ministers to this exhausting schedule, often keeping them up until the early hours of the morning until a specific matter was settled, or a speech perfected, then expecting early starts in office the following day.
WHAT IS THE OPTIMUM AMOUNT OF SLEEP?
We all know that in order to function, sleep is vital. This precious time is when your body grows (if you’re still in that stage of life). It is also when it repairs, so for anyone training or looking to improve their body composition, this is the time the beneficial work is being done.
Great sleep will help you in so many ways, including:
1. Maintaining your energy levels
2. Boosting mood and concentration
3. Keep you motivated – both in and out of the gym
4. Optimise the work of your fat-burning and muscle building hormones like testosterone and IGF-1.
5. Generally allowing you to feel healthier and more positive
‘REM’ sleep is the deep sleep stage, that we all need to reach in order to claim we’ve had a ‘healthy’ sleep. REM refers to ‘rapid eye movement’ – when we’re most likely to dream or to move around in bed. It accounts for 20 – 25% of the entire sleep, during which there will be an increase in growth hormone levels, which in turn leads to better skin and body composition. There will also be a reduction in the amount of cortisol in the body. This is a good thing, as cortisol damages muscle but aids fat gain.
However, the actual amount we need varies from person to person. And again, this varies naturally as we age. But the specialists all agree that the right amount of sleep for you as an individual is essential. And again, that the right type of quality sleep is essential. This means sleep that allows you to complete a full cycle, rather than waking up in the middle (making it incomplete).
Left to our own devices, without worries, interruptions, alarms, painful ailments, babies crying (etc)… we’d all find and set our own patterns.
But unfortunately, we do have outside influences and commitments that all conspire to interrupt (or even stop us from establishing) our patterns. So here are our tips for:
BETTER SLEEP FOR IMPROVED TRAINING
1) Plan Your Sleep Cycle: There are several sleep phases you’ll go through during a full night. The first is the light sleep, the time you’re most likely to be woken by outside influences. This is then followed by deep sleep, then the ‘REM’ state referred to earlier. A full sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes – repeated several times a night. If you wake in the middle of a cycle (i.e. an incomplete cycle, then this can account for why you may feel exhausted, rather than rested). So if you need to set an alarm, make sure you allow enough time for several ‘full’ cycles of 1.5 hours. Ideally, you should plan for four or five x 90-minute sleep cycles. Don’t set the alarm to go off in the middle of one!
2) Be Careful About Napping: Many more forward-thinking companies are now recognising that it’s beneficial to ‘rest’ employees at some stage during the day, in order to counter the afternoon slump that so many of us suffer from. If your body is tired, it makes sense to rest it (some Europeans have bought into the afternoon siesta for centuries – and it works for them!) However, it’s preferable not to nap for too long – if you enter into the REM state, then this starts to imitate a full sleep, and again – you wake in the middle of a cycle and you’re more likely to feel groggy, as opposed to refreshing.
3) Set A Schedule: If you’re late to bed one night, then early the next, your body doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going. We need routine in order to accustom ourselves to a pattern. This then becomes normal and the body adjusts.
4) Wind Down Slowly: Turn off the television and your portable devices. Take a warm bath with relaxing aromatherapy oils. Read for a short while. Listen to relaxing music. Allow yourself to stop.
5) Know What Your Bedroom is For: Sleep and sex. Full stop! It’s not for mind-extending activities. Try not to charge your phone or tablet on your bedside table, if you need it for an alarm charge it on the other side of the bedroom and put it on do not disturb mode.
6) Avoid Caffeinated Drinks: We all know that caffeine is a stimulant, so it’s plain common sense not to take it before bed. Why not try some of the fantastic herbal or specialist teas available.
We hope some of these tips have been useful to you. Check out our other blogs for lots of information on lifestyle and food.