Sleep your way to better fitness
Whether your fitness goal is muscle building, weight loss, increased athletic performance or reduced symptoms of metabolic disease, it may seem intuitive to look to the most current, cutting-edge nutrition or workout programs first. People often seek out these programs to help them achieve their goals efficiently. But before getting too wrapped up in a new workout regimen or nutritional protocol, think about how much and what kind of sleep you are getting.
We humans are creatures of habit who tend to rise and fall with the sun. Like the cycles of the sun, we run on cycles called circadian rhythms, and often our rhythms are set to the beat of the sun. When these beats fall out of sync, we can encounter problems. Living in Alaska adds an interesting twist.
Not getting adequate sleep can be a major deterrent in not reaching your fitness goals. The majority of the body’s growth hormone is secreted during sleep. Therefore a person looking to gain muscle tissue without enough sleep is missing out on the crucial opportunity for the release of his or her body’s growth hormone. Studies show those looking to shed a few pounds are more successful in their endeavor when a full night’s rest is on the menu.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Oh, I can get by just fine on four hours of sleep and two cups of coffee, with a side of Redbull.” While this might work for a day or two, sooner or later a lack of sleep will catch up with you – and sleep is not something you can catch up on. Once it’s lost, it’s lost forever.
Getting adequate, quality sleep is crucial. You’ll know your sleep quality is good when you’re able to recollect dreams (to ensure you’re hitting REM, the fifth and final stage of the sleep cycle), feeling refreshed when you wake up, ease of falling asleep and ease of waking up.
If you have issues getting high-quality sleep, try looking to treat the underlying issue, instead of assuming a sleeping pill is your answer. A sleeping aid will work as a bandage but not fix the problem. An example I like is if a child repeatedly has a scraped knee, week after week, and needs a bandage, the issue is covered up but not fixed. The correct procedure is to identify why they are getting the scrape and implement a solution. Perhaps the child is scraping the knee during soccer practice on a rough field. Solution: give him or her kneepads.
Some tips to improve your sleep quality include the following:
• Do not have a large meal, especially carbohydrate heavy ones, close to bedtime. This will prevent midnight awakenings.
• Exercise frequently throughout the week, but not late at night as that may impede your ability to fall asleep.
• Do not watch TV, read, or do anything other than sleep in bed. Keep your bed a “sanctuary of sleep.” If you must watch TV before bed, do so in another room. Soon enough your body will associate the bed with those coveted Z’s.
Ensuring that you are getting adequate amounts of sleep each and every night will help lay the foundation for achieving your health and fitness goals. Make sure that your sleep is deep and you feel rejuvenated upon waking. Remember, before we look at our external factors, we must look internally.
Jamie Cash is fitness manager at The Alaska Club.