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Sleep impacts exercise and recovery in an enormous way. Some minor changes will improve your sleep quality.  If you are putting the time in at the gym, here are 3 suggestions to help you recover well.

Why Sleep Impacts Exercise

Exercise is a type of stress. At the end of a gym session you are fatigued. The only way that gym sessions make you fitter is if you recover from them. The faster you recover, the sooner you can get back to the gym and the more you can train. This is why sleep impacts exercise. Sleep is when your body does most of its recovery. Also, being well rested allows you to work harder. So, sleep impacts exercise in big ways. here are my top 3 suggestions to improve your sleep.

#1 Avoid Stimulants In The Evening

We are not just talking about coffee! There are several stimulating behaviours that impact sleep. When I talk to people about sleep, most know that coffee before bed is not helpful. However, very few people are wiling to limit light exposure, especially from screens, in the same way they limit caffeine. Here are 3 suggestions.

Light and Screens

The neuroscience research is pretty clear. Here is a summary on The Scientific American. Light exposure, especially artificial light from smartphones, TVs and computers, does not help us sleep. It is best to have no screen time two hours before bed. My suggestion is to set a curfew and stick to it. Even 30 minutes will be helpful.  At this curfew, also switch over to using dim lights.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a drug found in coffee, tea and chocolate. It is a stimulant and it acts to keep you awake and alert. No surprise it doesn’t help you sleep. How is this for a surprise: half of the caffeine you consume can still be present in your system 5 hours later. Read more on how caffeine affects sleep here. Again, the suggestion of setting a curfew works well. My suggestion is 12noon or 3pm. This includes chocolate, so watch out for those rich desserts.

Excitement

We are powerful. Our actions, conversations and even thoughts can be stimulating. Have you ever stayed up late to read a good book even when the lights are dim and you are tired? Find low key activities to do in the evening. Personally, I wash the dishes with dim lighting. This is not exciting at all.

#2 Optimize Your Sleep Environment:

Dark

Black out blinds are a great investment. Get all electronics out of your bedroom. We want as close to perfect darkness as possible.

Cold

You shouldn’t feel cold or uncomfortable. However, if the room you are in is cool, this allows your body to be at an ideal temperature for sleep. A cold room with blankets is better than a warm room without blankets. Read more on the best temperature for sleep. 

Quiet

Again, get you phone and any electronic devices out of the bedroom. Even if they don’t wake you up, the little beeps don’t help you to stay in a deep sleep. So, make your room as quite as possible. Remember, this is not about falling asleep. This is about setting up a sleep environment for deep restful sleep.

#3 Routine

We do better when we make things routine. Habits are better than goals. Do you remember when you were a kid and you had a bed-time routine with your parents? First brush your teeth, then read a story, then go to sleep. Parents know how important routine is for sleep. When we hit 16 we don’t want anything to do with our parent’s rules. We stop doing the things that help us to sleep and feel good. Exercise, eat well, and go to sleep on time. This is not sexy advice. This is tried and true advice that parents everywhere know will help their kid but may not do for themselves.  I have two big suggestions here. First, keep your wake up time and bed time consistent. Second, go through your before bed activities in the exact same order every night. For example: wash your face, brush your teeth, put on your PJs.

A Note on Excuses

I hear a lot of people tell me why they can’t follow my suggestions. I have to work late on my computer. My wife likes a warm room so I can’t make it cold. I have nothing else to do in the evenings except watch tv or play video games.  I am not asking you to do anything drastic. My hope is that from these suggestions you find a minor change you can make that will improve your sleep. If you have done something that helps, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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