As fitness professionals, our primary focus is to help people improve their health, recover from injuries, and achieve their fitness goals; essentially live their best life. We do this by providing personalized fitness programs and discussing our client's diets and lifestyle habits, to ensure that they have the right tools and skills to stay on track. I work with my clients in a training room or on a massage table. But there is a room outside of the gym, which I do not have access to, and what my clients do in this room does affect their health and fitness. It’s the bedroom and no, I am not talking about sex, (even though I think that our sex lives do play a part in our overall health). I am talking about sleep.
Sleep is much more important than you think.
Lack of sleep affects how our brain works. Our brain can’t make new neurological pathways, and the pathways it does have are harder to maintain. Learning, concentration, creating new memories, and our response times are affected. We end up functioning at a lower capacity or as Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye would say we are 'strugs to func' (struggling to function). Not enough sleep or poor quality of sleep also increases our risks of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and obesity. Many people do not realize that maybe one of the reasons they cannot lose weight is because of their quality of sleep. In the past year, I have started to ask more of my clients about their sleep. How many hours do you get? Does it take you long to fall asleep? What do you do before you go to bed? Do you wake up often during the night?
Our lives can be very hectic. There's a lot that we need to get done in a day, and it usually feels like there is not enough time in a day to get it all done. Finish this assignment, start that other project, attend that 3-hour meeting, make sure you eat a healthy lunch, fit in a workout, pick up the kids from school, etc. etc. At the end of the day before we go to bed some of us will watch Netflix and pass out on the couch (I am guilty of doing this) or maybe we get into bed early enough, but then end up staying up late mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Reddit. Many, if not most of my clients, do not pay much attention to their sleep or bedtime routine. But if we made sure we slept better and for the right amount, we would feel better, we would work better, and our health and fitness would improve. Heck, even our sex lives probably would improve ;)
My niece and nephews, who are in elementary school, have bedtime routines. TV’s are turned off, iPhones are taken out of their bedrooms, they go take a shower, get in their pajamas, they can read for a bit in bed, but then its lights out. Why don’t we stop doing this as adults?
To improve your sleep quality here are a few things I want you to focus on and start doing:
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time during the work week. Make sure you get 6-8 hours a night.
Invest in blackout blinds if you are easily disturbed by lights
Keep the room a comfortable temperature.
Sometimes having white noise in the background or listening to music helps people fall asleep better. I know it helps me. I recently have used the Sleep Meditation Podcast which has different recordings of the ocean, rainstorms, city noise, and even bookstore ambiance. Do a little research and find something that works for you.
We have all heard that being on your phone before bed is bad for our sleep quality because the bright light from the screen stimulates our brains more. So instead read a few pages in a book or magazine. If you journal, this could be an excellent time to do this.
Lastly set an alarm on your phone for a half hour before the time you want to go to bed. During this half hour, I want you to turn off the TV and get off your computer or phone. Use this time to prepare anything you might need for the next day, like lunch, snacks, take dinner out of the freezer for tomorrow, or get your gym bag and clothing ready, so you do not have to rush in the morning. Also during this time, spend 5-10 minutes doing some mobility or foam rolling. Whether you have a desk job or you spend most of your time working on your feet, your joints compress, and your muscles stiffen. A little bit of mobility will help you feel and sleep better.
Check out the video below for a few stretches that I like to do before bed.
Since I have been making my clients pay attention to their sleep and help them create a bedtime routine, we both have noticed improvements in their workouts and their progress in crushing their goals. If you do not make time to rest and do not get enough sleep, you will burn out, and your physical, mental, and emotional health will be affected, which will feed into your work, family life, and relationships.