I want to take a step away today from my normal discussions about various training techniques or nutrition ideas, and look at another vitally important aspect in your life that plays an important role in your success with your fitness goals. And that aspect is…
How well do you sleep?
I’ve noticed that one of the challenges for many people in their fitness endeavors is getting enough quality sleep each night. In case you didn’t already know, the quality and quantity of your sleep each night is VERY important to maintaining an optimal hormonal balance within your body and keeping your metabolism as high as possible. Obviously, this all translates into a leaner you, if you are sleeping well regularly.
On the other hand, if you never seem to get enough sleep, or don’t sleep well enough to give your body the rest and recuperation it needs, you can count on the fact that this lack of sleep is making you fatter! That’s right, the lack of quality sleep creates a fat-storing hormonal mess inside your body. The fact is, the stats show that most people don’t get enough sleep regularly, and also don’t sleep as soundly as they should.
Aside from sleeping disorders, most people simply don’t get enough sleep because they have a hard time shutting down their minds at night, which leaves them lying there in bed tossing and turning with thoughts about the stresses of their daily lives shooting through their heads. Does this happen to you?
This has actually been a problem for me personally, but I’ve started to gain control of this with a few secrets I’ve learned, and now I can usually fall asleep pretty fast each night. Here are some of the tricks I’ve used to fall asleep easier each night. Some of these you’ve probably heard before, but others may be new ideas for you.
1. Try not to exercise intensely within about 2 hours or so of your normal bedtime. However, getting regular daily exercise at any other time of the day will help tire you out so that you can fall asleep easier once bed time comes.
2. Don’t try to go to sleep hungry. Contrary to popular belief, just because you eat after 6 or 7 pm does not mean it’s going to be instantly deposited as blubbery body fat. As a matter of fact, a lot of very lean people that I know eat small meals right before they go to bed each night. A light healthy snack 30-90 minutes before you hit the pillows will help satisfy your hunger and help you fall asleep easier.
3. Avoid stimulants like caffeine any time after late-afternoon.
4. Try chamomile tea and/or mint tea an hour or two before bed time. These generally have a relaxing effect and can help you calm down at night. I recently found a tea product called “bed time tea”, which combines chamomile and mint in the tea bags. I add in just a little touch of raw honey too and this combo really seems to relax me.
5. Try ground nutmeg in capsules an hour or two before bed. Nutmeg is supposed to also have a calming effect on the body. What I’ve done is buy a couple rounds of whole nutmeg and use a strong coffee grinder to grind them into powder. Then I fill empty capsules with the nutmeg and take a couple each night. Two whole nutmeg rounds will fill a couple dozen capsules, so I store them in a ziplock in the fridge. I’m not totally sure if this helps or not, but it certainly can’t hurt, and nutmeg is at least a good source of antioxidants too!
6. Try to clear your mind of daily stresses and things you need to do. This has been my biggest obstacle to overcome in order to fall asleep at night. One thing that helps is to use a note pad to write down what I need to do the next day. That helps me clear my mind and reassure that I won’t forget anything, so that I can relax. Instead of thinking about my day, or what I need to do tomorrow, I simply wipe my mind clean, and think about a relaxing place that I enjoy, like a tropical beach, or lying on a hammock in the breeze somewhere. If I can keep my mind on something relaxing like this, and not my daily worries, I fall asleep like a champ!
I know there are many other strategies that people use to help fall asleep, but I figured I’d just give you a few of the tricks that have helped me out with conquering this. Whatever you do, please try to keep it natural… taking sleep aid drugs will almost always have adverse side effects.
So do yourself a favor and pull the plug on the late-night talk shows or late-night Seinfeld re-runs (although that Kramer does crack me up!), and try to get to sleep a little earlier from now on. Clear your mind, relax, and enjoy some good quality sleep that will keep your body leaner and have you feeling more energy filled during each day. Good luck!