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Your Sleep Hygiene Needs Work Here’s How to Improve Your … – Gear Patrol

May 4th, 2023

Picture this: You've been driven and motivated to hit the gym or get your miles in day in and day out. You've got your post-workout recovery dialed in with a quality massage gun and stretching regimen. Your diet and supplementation are on point. Yet despite having put in all this work, you still feel like you're lagging behind. Why?

Probably because you're a terrible sleeper or at least, haven't given your nighttime habits enough thought.

Sleep can be one of the most vital keys to your overall fitness, affecting everything from your cognitive state and energy levels to how well your muscles bounce back to normal post-workout. But to make the most of your bed time each and every night, your sleep hygiene needs to be in order.

The phrase "sleep hygiene" refers to the habits you practice in relation to your normal sleep behavior. These include keeping a proper environment for slumber, abstaining from influential food and drink prior to bed, reducing stress throughout the day and more.

A good comparison would be how regular brushing and flossing affects your oral health. Like your typical toothbrushing habits, sleep hygiene can be improved upon. All that's necessary is to invest in the practice and remain dedicated to improvement.

A good night's sleep can help you awaken with a recharged battery and clear mind, but the benefits of a Zs-catching session aren't just reserved to cognitive function. Your muscles and aches can greatly benefit from your dedication to healthier sleep hygiene, too.

During your slumber, your body is still at work repairing cells, restoring energy and releasing molecules like hormones and proteins. One of those hormones, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), is the human growth hormone (HGH). This surge of the vital hormone can occur roughly every two hours during sleep, leading to better healing, recovery and growth across your musculature and more.

Yet, it's plenty difficult to reap the benefits of this hormone secretion and cellular repair if you're tossing and turning night in and night out. This begs the question, how can you make it so every night isn't an RPE 10 to catch some Zs? Here are a few tips to help make nighttime a more approachable endeavor, and how you can set yourself up for the best sleep ever with every PM session.

As an adult, its advised to shoot for at least seven hours of sleep per night. Well, like any other endeavor, how can you expect to meet that quota if you dont have a plan in place?

To give yourself a better shot of meeting your nighttime slumber numbers, try to develop a routine that sees you getting into bed (and getting up in the morning) at the same times each and every day. This can help reinforce your bodys sleep-awake cycle as it learns to adapt to your schedule. Soon enough, youll find yourself getting tired at the right time before bed and naturally rising without the added stress of a buzzing alarm clock.

Power naps might sound great on paper, but when it comes time to really hit the hay, these small breaks from your normal daytime routine can spell nothing but trouble. Naps lasting longer than two hours throughout the day have been shown to cause sleep deprivation during regular nighttime slumber, so it's best to save the sheep counting for when it matters most.

Of course, we all have different personal schedules, and a small nap may be vital to keep you running at peak performance throughout the day. If you feel your napping habits are interfering with your slumber, consider swapping out your normal nap time for shorter breaks of roughly 30 minutes. Additionally, try to keep your naps to earlier in the day, as this can allow your body to naturally tire itself down to a depleted state ideal for nighttime rest.

We all know your diet plays a role in your physical fitness while awake, but did you know it can affect your evening performance, too? To help set your body up for sleeping success, try to avoid large meals immediately before hitting the pillow. This can allow for more efficient digestion as the nutrients make their way into their proper locations without keeping your engine running longer than needed.

Its also best to avoid stimulants and other inhibitors before bed, including caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. While a nightcap beverage may make you feel tired at first, its effects on cognitive function can leave you tossing and turning more often than not.

Wissanu Sirapat / EyeEmGetty Images

Most if not all of us have an unhealthy relationship with our tech tools, but trust me you can sacrifice a few scrolls for the sake of better sleep. Many of our smartphones, TVs, tablets and other devices omit whats known as blue light, and prolonged exposure can lead to negative impacts on our Circadian rhythms.

In addition to lessening blue light exposure, turning off your electronics before hitting the hay and subsequently leaving them alone throughout the night can lessen the number of distractions your brain encounters. This can allow your mind to power down more easily, creating a level, quiet state that further promotes drifting off to sleep.

Comfort plays a big role in how effective your night shift is, too, and your brain and body are more likely to turn down for the evening if the conditions are prime for counting sheep. This means giving your bed a few quick upgrades with a new mattress, pillows, bed sheets, and other linens for a cozier nighttime experience. You can also expand this makeover to your entire room with dimming shades, white noise machines and more.

It can also help to keep your bedroom a little chillier than the rest of your abode for the sake of better sleep. Studies show that temperatures between 60 and 67F can be great for allowing your body to cool down properly as you lie down with enough heat to promote wakefulness when you rise. Cooling blankets and pillows can also be helpful for these circumstances.

Like your kitchen, garage or home office, your bedroom should also have a role to play in regards to your daily habits. While it might sounds enticing to stay under the comforters as you work from home, doing so can actually trick your brain into a more active state, associating wakefulness with your bed itself. This association can be hard to break when you go to truly use your mattress, sheets and pillows for their intended activity rest.

Its best to leave your sleeping arrangements for just this purpose by keeping your active hours separate from the location entirely. If you do find yourself struggling to nod off at the end of the day, a helpful tip is to leave the room for roughly 20 minutes, then returning once your mind has had time to turn down further. This can promote that notion of bed equals sleep more, resulting in a smoother transition to slumber time.

While its not a great idea to stare at your phone for hours before bed, these devices can still help you create a soothing sleep environment through a number of pathways. Plenty of sleep apps are designed to help with meditation, journaling, soundscapes and more. Using these tools to your advantage can put you in a better state for slumber, creating an effective, efficient relationship between your devices and your sleep hygiene.

To go a step further, some sleep apps utilize your phone or smartwatchs accelerometer to track your body tendencies throughout the night, charting your sleep data for a detailed look at how well youre resting from a qualitative and quantitative perspective. This style of digital tool can also be great to inform you of other pre-bed habits and how theyre truly impacting your rest.

Yes, your rest can actually benefit from the activity its trying to help, too. A proper exercise regimen can boost serotonin levels in the brain and decrease the presence of cortisol, resulting in improved sleep duration and quality. There are some parameters, however, to create the best relationship between sleep and training.

For one, studies show that early morning workouts can be more positive for sleep than later evening sessions. Additionally, your activities should be vigorous, but not overly aggressive or intense. Overtraining has been linked to poor sleep quality in the past, so while your body may be clamoring for a rest in these scenarios, said slumber may be less impactful.

Play around with your workouts and schedule to find what generates the best results for you. Doing so can create a cyclical, symbiotic relationship between your sleep and fitness where everyone wins especially you.

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Your Sleep Hygiene Needs Work Here's How to Improve Your ... - Gear Patrol

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