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It really doesn’t matter what your goals are. Sleep, rest and recovery are essential. If you are looking to lose body fat, add muscle or increase physical performance on the sports field, all will be affected if you don’t get in that downtime. Our bodies need a certain amount of rest, sleep and recovery to repair, grow and improve. It makes no sense at all doing all the hard work, the training, the diet, and the supplements and then allowing sleep to let you down.

There is a huge epidemic with the population and sleep patterns, and not just in the fitness industry. There are many factors that affect sleep:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Poor diet
  • Dehydration
  • Overstimulation
  • Obesity

These are some of the main reasons that sleep of the masses are affected. Having more structure and a plan will definitely help. If you are not getting in enough sleep during the night, you will be affected during the day for sure. This could have catastrophic effects on your daily life. 40% of people in the US suffer from sleepiness issues in the afternoon.

Signs that you are sleep deprived:

  • Reduced energy
  • Negative attitude
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Memory loss
  • Slowed speech

The optimal amount of sleep will vary for us all, they say the average is between 7-8 hours per day. Yet some may find 6 is enough, and others might need up to 10.

Such problems can directly or indirectly be tied to abnormalities in various systems, such as physiological systems:

  • Brain and Nervous System
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Metabolic Functions
  • Immune System

Furthermore, unhealthy conditions, disorders, and diseases can also cause sleep problems. These can include:

  • Pathological sleepiness, insomnia, and accidents
  • Hypertension and elevated cardiovascular risks (MI, stroke)
  • Emotional disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)
  • Obesity; metabolic syndrome and diabetes
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

Environment and behaviour can affect individual sleep patterns as well. Stress is the number one reason for short-term sleeping difficulties. Issues can be school or work related, financial pressure, illness or family loss. However, relationship or marriage problems are the most common reasons why sleep is affected. Usually, once the problem has passed, the sleep patterns return to normal. However, if problems such as insomnia aren’t treated properly, the issue can be present long after the original stress has passed.

  • Stimulants and alcohol can also wreak havoc if drank before bed. Even caffeine in the afternoon can affect a person’s sleep if they are sensitive to the stimulant. Exercise or intense work before bed can also aggravate sleep patterns.
  • Room temperature is also very important. A room that is too cold or too hot will leave you uncomfortable and a room which is cluttered and messy can disturb your body’s balance.
  • Roommates, partners, and friends can be a nightmare as well. If you share a room with a snorer, fidgeter or someone who likes to talk before bed, that can also disturb your body’s sleep patterns.

Why is sleep so important for recovery?

During undisturbed sleep, or slow-wave sleep, the plasma growth hormone (human growth hormone – somatropin) is found to be at its highest levels. If the sleep stage process is interrupted, complete repair of soft tissues is impossible due to the resulting decrease or absence of said human growth hormone.

Losing sleep during any 24 or 48 hour period interferes with the essential and healthful cycle of physiological changes that occur during sleep and is detrimental to both physical and mental recovery. Recovery in subjects deprived of sleep for 24 hours has been measured at 72%, while recovery after a 48 hour period without sleep, further deteriorated to a level of only 42%.

You can see just how drastic it really is when sleep is affected. It is key that you do everything possible to ensure a good night’s sleep is had. 

Top tips for a good night’s sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
  3. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
  4. Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  5. Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for good sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or any other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and any other devices that may help.
  6. Sleep on a comfortable and supportive mattress and the one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy as every mattress has about 9 or 10 quality years of life in it. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you, and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up.
  7. Eliminate any alcohol or stimulants after mid-afternoon and try to avoid vigorous exercise 2 hours before bed.
  8. Consume a healthy and balanced diet, drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  9. Anything that is playing on your mind, write it down and address the problem in the morning.

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