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Foundation Fitness and Rehabilitation

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How Do I Sleep Better So I’m Not Too Tired to Work Out?

The Heart Foundation reports that one of the top reasons given for not working out is, “I’m too tired.” This is no real surprise since 50 to 70 million Americans are alleged to have sleep problems. To understand why sleep quality is low for so many people requires first having a good grasp of what a healthy sleep cycle looks like.

Understanding the Sleep-Wake Cycle

Our bodies have something called a circadian rhythm. This is a type of internal clock that tells us when it’s morning and time to wake up. It also lets us know when to go to sleep at night. If this circadian rhythm is disrupted, it impacts your ability to get good sleep. 

The National Sleep Foundation adds that the body needs to go through four different stages to get a great night’s sleep. They are:

  • N1 – This is when you’re somewhere between being awake and being fully asleep.
  • N2 – At this point, you’re not aware of your surroundings and your body temp starts to lower. Breathing becomes regular, as does your heart rate.
  • N3 – This is when you are in a deep sleep. The N3 stage offers many benefits. Among them are tissue repair, muscle growth, and the release of important hormones.
  • REM – REM stands for rapid eye movement. This stage is necessary for providing energy to the brain, helping it perform better during the day. It is also during REM that you dream. You first enter REM around 90 minutes into the sleep cycle. You then reenter it every 90 minutes after, or longer as the night goes on.

If you have trouble staying asleep, your body isn’t able to go through this entire cycle. This can negatively impact your body’s function. 

For instance, if you wake up before entering N3, your tissues aren’t able to fully repair and your muscles cannot grow. Wake up before going into the REM stage and your brain won’t receive the energy it needs to function efficiently the next day. 

What Happens When You’re Sleep Deprived?

When you have poor sleep, it’s not uncommon to experience a “brain fog,” or an inability to concentrate. Research also reveals that sleep deprivation can impact the brain by negatively affecting memory, decision-making, and other cognitive functions.

Other studies have connected sleep disruption with poorer health. Short term, it can lead to mood disorders, an increased response to stress, and even the appearance of pain. If insomnia exists long-term, it can contribute to hypertension and heart disease. Not being able to consistently get a good night’s rest can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and obesity.

A poor night’s sleep also increases your odds of being in an automobile accident. According to one study, this risk is especially significant for shift workers. And if you have Willis-Ekbom disease—also known as “restless leg syndrome”—your risk of crash or near-crash is elevated as well. 

And especially relevant to the world of fitness: sleep is important to workout recovery. How?

Sleep and Workout Recovery

When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, it hinders muscle growth. This is because sleep is when your body stores blood glucose as muscle glycogen. If your sleep schedule is disturbed, this process is hindered. Muscles don’t get the energy they need. 

Research also reveals that sleep is when human growth hormone, or HGH, is released. This hormone is important to muscle recovery and is secreted in higher amounts in the first phase of slow-wave sleep. This is the phase that occurs shortly after falling asleep.

How Do I Sleep Better?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Kids should get more, ranging from 14-17 hours of sleep for newborns to 8-10 hours of sleep nightly for teens.

What can you do to help clients better reach these amounts? It begins by suggesting that they strive to create a few healthy sleep habits.

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Wake up at the same time every day. Go to bed at the same time every night. This keeps the circadian rhythm intact. It also establishes healthier sleep patterns because the body has an easier time identifying when it should be asleep.
  • Create a sleep-inducing bedroom environment. Buy a comfortable mattress and pillow so your bed contributes to a good night’s sleep. If there’s light outside your window, put up darkening curtains. This is also helpful if you work the late shift and must sleep during the day.
  • Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. What you do in the hours before going to bed helps determine whether you’ll get a good night’s sleep. Options to consider include taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, reading, and meditation. Anything that slows your body down can make it easier to fall and stay asleep.
  • Eat a snack that makes you sleepy. Foods that fall into this category include those high in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid known to promote a restful night’s sleep and is found in turkey, peanuts, sesame seeds, and milk.
  • Eliminate things that keep you awake. Caffeine falls into this category. While you may think you’re good by switching to decaf, think again. Even decaffeinated beverages contain small amounts of caffeine. Remember that caffeine isn’t just in coffee. It can also be found in chocolate, some medications, and a handful of other foods such as breakfast cereal, frozen yogurt, and ice cream. 
  • Shut off electronics close to bedtime. While technological advancements are good, use of these devices around bedtime is making it tougher to sleep. Turn off the computer and TV a couple hours before going to bed. This gives your brain the opportunity to shut down. It also reduces your exposure to the lights these devices create, which can throw off your circadian rhythm.
  • Get a white noise machine. If you have loud neighbors or others in your household are making it harder to sleep, a white noise machine can help. It drowns out voices, televisions, and other noises coming from inside and outside your home that are keeping you awake. 
  • Lower your stress and anxiety. Research connects stress with a decrease in slow-wave sleep and REM sleep. Studies have also found that it’s not uncommon for people with anxiety to have insomnia. That’s why clients should be encouraged to deal with these types of mental health issues. Once they do, they will likely notice that their quality of sleep improves.
  • Expend more energy throughout the day. It also helps to engage in exercises that increase your energy during the day so you sleep better at night. This is even more important for clients who work in a sedentary job and don’t move around a lot. Even breaktime walks can help get rid of some pent-up energy.

What About Sleep Aids?

One option is an all-natural supplement like melatonin. Melatonin works by promoting a healthy sleep-wake cycle. The body does make some on its own, but supplements can help fill the gap if it doesn’t make enough. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that melatonin can be helpful for lack of sleep due to jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, and surgery-related anxiety.

Some people also find that CBD oil helps them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. CBD stands for cannabidiol and is an extract of the cannabis plant. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not create the “high” effect typically associated with marijuana. It has also been connected to a variety of other health benefits beyond better sleep. These include pain relief, reduced anxiety and depression, and greater heart health.