There are many moving pieces when trying to get healthier. Nutrition and all its facets is certainly in the top spot. Besides that, you could focus on moving more and working out (including steps), getting more sleep, reducing stress, nutrient timing, appropriately timed rest days and fixing any digestive issues — and that’s just scratching the surface. 

Sleep is by far my #2 focus point, if not #1, depending on how one’s current sleep is. 

Unfortunately, sleep is a hard thing to change. There are deep level habits built into your nightly routine and how your body responds to these. 

Additionally, most people believe they get enough sleep. However, these people might also wonder why they need coffee in the morning and have a mid-afternoon slump. 

Average adults need over seven or eight hours of sleep each night. Sometimes that number is slightly lower, sometimes slightly more, but on average, seven hours is the least amount of sleep your body needs. 

Personally, my body needs seven hours and 39 minutes. Yep, that’s right. After wearing a fitness tracker to bed for the last several years there was a trend that emerged that keeps proving itself true. I go to bed around the same time every night (even weekends) and I typically wake up before my alarm. Even with small variances in my bedtime, I still sleep for seven hours and 39 minutes. I wake rested and I don’t require caffeine. I am energized throughout the day and am perfectly tired when it’s time for bed again.

It’s easy for me to say, “I do this,” and expect the same from you. I don’t expect the same, because… life. As I already mentioned, getting more sleep is easier said than done. Instead of focusing on more sleep, first try to focus on betterquality sleep. Getting more restful and deeper sleep can be the same, if not better than getting more sleep. Insert the old adage “sleep like a baby.”

There are some really great sleep hygiene tips that I can offer that might help you get better quality sleep. Sleep hygiene is comprised of all the good habits and practices that help you get a good night’s sleep and feel alert during the day. 

 

Go to bed around the same time each night. “Making up” lost sleep doesn’t work like you think it does, so don’t just try and sleep more on the weekends, it just messes up your circadian rhythm. 

Stay off electronics (laptops/phones/iPads) for at least one hour before bed.

Use an eye mask. Many people are more sensitive to light than they realize (and even those little glowing red or green electronic lights around the room could disturb your Zs).

Use ear plugs – as with light, same goes for small sounds and bumps in the night.

Get ready for bed 30-60 minutes before you actually want to sleep. When you do it earlier, it becomes a signal to your body that it’s time to wind down for sleep. Do this ritual every night. 

Make sure your bedroom (and bed) isn’t too warm or too cold.

Avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime (preferably longer).

If you wake up achy, take a look at your pillow and/or mattress to see if it’s time to replace one or both. Pillows generally only last one or two years and mattresses for seven to 10. 

Avoid spicy foods and large meals right before bed.

Stop drinking liquids at least two hours before bed or figure out where your threshold is to limit nocturnal urination.

If it takes you longer than 10 minutes to fall asleep, or you have trouble staying asleep, it’s time you took a look at your sleep hygiene or lack thereof to see what can be tweaked. 

Above all, listen to your body. If you are feeling exhausted, go to bed early! Even if it’s only 10 minutes earlier, you’ll thank yourself tomorrow. If you upgrade your sleep hygiene with some of the recommendations above, hopefully, you too, will be sleeping like a baby in no time. 

 

 

 

Leah Harding is a nutrition coach and mobile personal trainer. She specializes in helping people see food as an ally to reach their goals, both in and out of the gym. She previously worked out of Rincon Fitness and owned CrossFit Carpinteria/Foxwing Fitness. Contact her at leah@foxwingfitness.com with questions or with ideas for future wellness articles.

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