Thursday, 10 March 2016

Sleep is for the weak...or sleep for a week?

It's almost the weekend guys. I hope you’re all having great weeks and smashing your goals. Tonight I wanted to quickly talk about sleep (I say quickly because I need to go to sleep haha).
How true is it when they say that as an adult you start loving everything you hated as a child? Sleep is the ultimate example. I remember as a kid watching TV on an evening with my family watching the clock dreading it reaching bed time as I just didn’t want to go to sleep. These days I watch the clock waiting for a time that would be considered acceptable at 25 years of age to go to bed.
I think people underestimate the importance of sleep and how much impact it can have on our daily lives. I bet if you ask the majority of people they would say that ideally they need more sleep than they get. Different studies have shown different results about how much sleep we need per night to function at our best. Some say 7 hours is enough, some say we should be aiming for 9 (wow that would be the day hey?)
But on average most advice describes at least 7 hours sleep as beneficial for us to live a healthy lifestyle. I think we all acknowledge that sometimes 7 hours sleep isn’t possible if you’ve got something on one evening and then you’ve also got a very early start.
I wrote in my last post at the weekend about how after my week off last week I was going to make a conscious effort to go to bed earlier to try and get a bit more sleep each night. As I’m up most mornings at 05:30 when I have fasted cardio I’d set myself a bedtime of 22:30 at the latest to give me my 7 hour allowance.
I seem to have taken this one step further this week and every night apart from last night I haven’t seen 21:30 haha. And I have felt so much better for getting more sleep each night. My concentration has been better, my mood has been good, my body has felt fresh for training and I’ve just felt much calmer in myself.
I’ve been doing some reading up this week on how sleep can benefit you when you’re training. There’s the obvious benefits such as having more energy particularly if you’re training after work when fatigue may sometimes be kicking in. But also for growing muscle. I read a particularly interesting article on (I’m really enjoying this site at the moment as there’s some really great stories and advice on there) which talks about growth hormone. As you fall into your deepest stage of sleep (stage 4) the quantity of growth hormone released into your bloodstream increases due to the action of growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH). GHRH is itself a sleep inducer too.
The article also talks about how not sleeping very well can have some reverse effect to this. When we are awake our stress hormones are increased and our GHRH is decreased and your immune system can be partially supressed. Biochemical evidence supports the role of sleep as a critical restorative process and without adequate sleep it can have a significant impact on your physical state.
Last weekend I spent some time food-prepping to make my week easier and this has allowed me to eat earlier on an evening after the gym and to not have as much to do to prepare my meals for the next day. So then I’m able to get a shower and have some relaxing down-time before I go to bed. I was talking about this with my PT tonight; about how important it is to have some time to wind-down before you sleep. If you race around all evening and then try sleep often you’ll find you take a bit longer to fall asleep or that your sleep is broken. Even having 10-15 minutes relaxation before sleep can make a big difference.
This week I’ve made an effort to get into bed early too and then have some time to read or to catch up with things on my phone; just to have that shut-off time. And routine is so important to me. I function better when in a proper routine so having a strict routine helps me massively. It’s not always possible to do this every day as sometimes things come up that need doing. Monday evening I had some paperwork to read through ahead of Tuesday so I had to factor that in to my evening schedule and tonight I’ve had to do a bit of work after training but most of the time you can build a good routine for yourself.
And by having more routine you’ll find it easier to get to sleep and to wake up if you’re doing this at consistent hours. I am a morning person so I don’t struggle massively to wake up apart from the occasional morning if I’ve been particularly busy but I’ve found it even easier with having more of a routine this week and going to bed earlier.
I have to be quite strict with my evenings too. I used to regularly have catch ups planned with friends, dinners out, go for coffee etc. and now I just don’t really plan anything like that during the week unless it’s just hanging out at my friends’ houses or at mine where we can just wind down. Some people might say that’s boring and it impacts on your social life but for me it’s all about making my life easier and making choices.
I work hard during the day which is tiring anyway. But add training into the equation (double sessions three days per week) and it’s pretty exhausting. The last thing I want to do after I come home from the gym is start getting ready to go out when I have a 05:30 wake up call. And I’m pretty sure my friends now know not to contact me after 21:00 on an evening as more often than not I’ll be in bed haha.
As I’ve said I know it can be difficult to get adequate sleep but making alterations to your lifestyle can help massively. Here’s a few key tips I’ve found that have helped me develop a good sleep pattern:
1)    Organisation: spending an hour or two on a weekend prepping for the week can help massively. Whether that’s lunch prep, dinner prep, doing all the washing, cleaning up etc. If it’s all done on the weekend you don’t have to worry about it on an evening.
2)    Routine: get into a good routine of going to bed at a regular time and waking up at a regular time.
3)    Environment: an hour before I go to bed I’ll light a scented candle in my room that’s relaxing. Then by the time I go to bed my room smells amazing and puts me in a relaxed state.
4)    Chill out time: try and give yourself some time every night before you sleep where you just relax. Whether that’s reading or watching some TV or just having some quiet time. Even 15 minutes of this can help put you in a calm state for sleep.
Why not try doing this for a week and see how much better you feel even if it helps you to get just an extra 30 minutes sleep than normal?
Having read this back to myself I do feel about 60 years old writing this post (cringeeee!!) but I don’t think it’s any secret how much we all love our sleep and even better that is has so much benefit to our lives.
It’s now approaching 21:00 and I still have to get a shower so time for me to sign off and go dream about yummy food (I’m not even joking; this is happening quite frequent now I’m in full diet-mode). Only 2 more sleeps until my cheat though…and I CANNOT wait.

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