Everyone knows that sleep is important. After all, most of us feel pretty lousy after a sleepless night.
But did you know sleep is also crucial for workout recovery?
In fact, when we’re sleeping, the body takes care of important repair processes such as allowing muscle tissues to recover between workouts.
This article will explain how to optimize sleep as well as provide tips and tricks to improve your sleep so you can bring your best foot forward during exercise.
Why Sleep is Critical for Recovery
When we’re sleeping, the body is working hard to rest and repair. Perhaps most importantly, sleep allows muscle tissues to recover between workouts.
Additionally, getting enough sleep is key to providing you with the energy and motivation to workout in the first place. Not only does being well-rested help you stick to your workout plan, but it can help boost concentration, mood, and focus during your sweat session.
Studies show that people who get adequate sleep are more likely to be motivated and stick to exercise plans compared to those who don’t get enough sleep (1).
On the other hand, the body’s ability to repair and recover after a poor night of sleep is quite inhibited. Inadequate sleep can lead to less physical activity during the day and reduced muscle strength.
But, what exactly is considered adequate sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Tips to Improve Sleep Quality and Duration
If you’re someone looking to improve your sleep, it’s important to take a closer look at your habits and routine, as many common habits can impact the quality and duration of your precious sleeping hours.
The following section explains some tips you can start utilizing right away to improve your sleep.
Limit Blue Light
Blue light is a type of light, or electromagnetic wave, that is emitted from screens such as televisions, tablets, laptops, and cell phones. With high amounts of exposure to this type of light, the body’s natural release of melatonin is reduced.
Typically, at the end of the day, the body releases melatonin, which is a hormone that promotes sleep. However, when we’re exposed to blue light, melatonin is inhibited, thereby delaying and disrupting your normal sleep cycle (2).
Instead of spending hours on screens up until bedtime, find alternative ways to wind down such as reading a book, meditating, or listening to soothing music.
For those days where you can’t seem to escape the screen, another good option is using a blue light filter or a blue light blocking glasses to reduce your exposure.
Limit Afternoon Caffeine Consumption
Did you know that caffeine can stay in our bodies for up to 10 hours?
Because caffeine circulates in our system for hours after consuming it, you might want to consider nixing that afternoon coffee habit.
Studies show that consuming caffeine in the afternoon can lead to significant disturbances to normal sleep (3).
If you need a pick-me-up in the afternoon, giving your body nourishment– in the form of protein and fiber – can often help regulate blood sugar, giving you the energy you need to get you through the rest of your day.
Consider a quick and easy snack like a protein cookie to give your body some mid-afternoon fuel.
Engage in Stress-Reduction Habits
Reducing stress may be one of the healthiest things you can do for your sleep routine.
High levels of stress are associated with increased circulating levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol.
It’s a good idea to work on reducing stress levels, as higher levels of cortisol are associated with disrupted sleep (4).
Here are some examples of ways to reduce stress:
- Take a walk in nature
- Play with a pet
- Engage in meaningful social interactions
- Spend time journaling
- Reduce alcohol intake and smoking
- Nurture your brain with uplifting content
- Pick up a hobby such as gardening, dancing, or painting
- Practice meditation
Use Natural Supplements
Even though getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge, there are also a variety of natural supplements that can help optimize sleep.
Magnesium threonate is a natural supplement that has been shown to be beneficial for enhancing relaxation and supporting healthy sleep cycles.
Another great natural supplement for sleep is L-theanine. It plays a role in forming neurotransmitters that help combat stress. By reducing stress levels, L-theanine can be great for promoting calmness, and therefore improving sleep.
It’s hard to discuss natural supplements for sleep without mentioning adaptogens. Adaptogens are natural plant compounds that have the ability to regulate our hormones to levels to promote homeostasis in the human body.
Adaptogens have the ability to boost immunity, enhance mental acuity, and reduce depression and anxiety.
A great option for a natural supplement with adaptogens is Naked Greens, which contains the adaptogen called ashwagandha. Studies suggest that ashwagandha can be helpful for promoting good sleep, especially for those with insomnia (5).
Eating Your Way to Better Sleep
In addition to focusing on your routine, habits, and natural supplements to optimize sleep, diet also plays a major role.
There are certain foods and food compounds that have beneficial effects on sleep cycles.
Foods that are high in magnesium have also been known to help support a good night’s sleep. Some examples of foods high in magnesium include nuts and seeds, leafy greens, beans, oats, and bananas. Consuming magnesium-rich foods before bed might help promote restful sleep.
It’s also been found that foods high in the amino acid tryptophan can promote good sleep. Some of the best sources of tryptophan include milk, canned tuna, turkey, chicken, oats, cheese, nuts, and seeds.
At the end of the day, it’s important to maintain a diet rich in whole foods to promote overall wellness and support healthy sleep. Aim to limit your intake of alcohol, added sugar, and processed foods as these foods can all impair optimal sleep quality.
Ensuring good quality sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
What’s more, if you want to excel at the gym and improve your workouts, you must focus on improving your sleep hygiene. Not only will good sleep keep you energized for exercise, but it’s key for muscle repair and recovery.
While there are many factors that play a role in how we sleep, it’s a good idea to start taking a look at your routine habits that may be impacting your ability to sleep.