Sleep: The Missing Link to Reaching Your Fitness Goals

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

Ask anyone how many hours per night is a good amount of sleep, and it is ingrained in us that 8 hours is the magic number. While for certain populations this is 100% true, it isn't for everybody. For example, a growing teenager should get more! Sleep is vital for development whether it's physical or mental. Two of the nation's leading authorities on sleep, the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine agree that teenagers should get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. So next time you are mad at your teen for sleeping in again, cut them some slack! They are busy trying to facilitate expansive thinking and spur creativity, even if it may not seem like it.

For those of us who participate in some form of resistance training, proper sleep is neck and neck for importance as nutrition is. So why is there so much emphasis on nutrition coaching and dieting tips but not proper sleep? Personally, I think this is a real shortcoming that is not discussed enough when it comes to helping people achieve their goals. The foods that we use to fuel and recover our bodies from the stressors of the day are put to use when we are asleep. Specifically, when we are in a parasympathetic state. This is called restorative sleep and requires us to be in a state of REM (rapid eye movement). On average, most adults will only experience REM sleep for 20- 25% of the time that they sleep each night, but that quarter of your sleep is incredibly important to proper recovery from training and daily activities.

Now I get it, some people have insomnia or anxiety and these conditions can create a very difficult environment for proper sleep to occur. While in certain cases prescriptions for sleep aids can greatly help someone achieve proper sleep and boost recovery, I believe that any remedy that can be tried to naturally induce sleep is going to be the most beneficial in the long run. First, we’ll talk about the typical route someone will take to achieve “better” sleep. It usually starts with trying to take a melatonin supplement which may help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep or taking Diphenhydramine as a sedative (the active ingredient in Benadryl or Advil) and contains antihistamines. A tolerance to the sedatives of antihistamines can develop quickly so the longer you take them, the less likely they are to make you sleepy unless you keep taking a higher dose. There is also evidence that these antihistamines leave people with a “hangover effect” feeling groggy and as if they didn't get enough sleep. The exact opposite of what they were probably trying to accomplish!

Next, let's take a look at some more natural remedies such as changes in diet and exercise, bedtime routines, and blue light detoxes. Before you even try to say “i've tried and it doesn't work” I want you to think real hard. Just as anything with keeping ourselves healthy there can’t be a quick fix. It requires commitment and sacrifice. So with that said, how hard did you previously try to create this change? A week or two to no avail? We know that with the 21 day rule it takes a minimum of 21 days to form a new habit, but sometimes it can take up to half a year! It all depends on your willingness to commit to the habit and/ or routine. To make sure we eclipse that 21 day rule I've put together a 4 week plan for you guys that focuses on creating a bedtime routine and technology/ screen time detox in hopes that it becomes easier and quicker for you to fall asleep and in turn helps with your recovery to reach your goals.

Week 1:

Monday: Create a bedtime routine alarm (15 minutes before you plan to go to sleep) at this time electronics and TV’s are turned off and your routine begins.

Thursday: Add a To-do list for the next day to your bedtime routine.

Week 2:

Monday: Change your bedtime routine alarm to 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep.

Thursday: Add in 5-10 minutes of meditation or controlled breathing techniques to get your body into a parasympathetic state (Box breathing is the simplest; 4 second inhale through nose, 4 second hold, 4 second exhale through mouth, 4 second pause before next inhale)

Week 3:

Monday: Change your bedtime routine alarm to 45 minutes before you plan to go to sleep

Wednesday: At this point your routine should be set, now you just have to keep yourself accountable to complete it.

Friday: In order for this routine to become a habit it is important that you continue to do it even on weekends.

Week 4:

Monday: Complete your bedtime routine

Wednesday: Complete your bedtime routine

Friday: Complete your bedtime routine

Now that you have completed 4 weeks of keeping up with a bedtime routine it should become easier for you to stick to it each night. Ideally, you will complete this five to six days a week. Of course there are reasons that could pop up that could make it difficult to stick to your routine, but for the most part this should be completed nightly. One thing that I have found successful is a shortened version that I created in case I feel I don’t have enough time to complete the full routine. I am still able to have some sort of a routine and it helps build the task into a habit each time it is completed no matter the length of the routine.

At Studio 14 we believe that habit tracking and accountability is the cornerstone to a successful lifestyle change. Discipline and routine are two of the most underrated qualities when it comes to an individual who is able to reach their goals day in and out. Interested in learning how we use our state of the art mobile app to help people with habit tracking and coaching? Check out our website and inquire today!

James Burdett

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