Lately I have been looking deeper into how to improve my performance not only at the gym but at work.

Lately I have been looking deeper into how to improve my performance not only at the gym but at work. As I dive deeper and deeper into the subject there is one thing that is consistently at the top of the list; Sleep! It is one of the most important things that we can do for our health in the short and the long term, and I am not just talking taking a 20min nap in the afternoon to increase your total sleep time, I am talking about the full night 7+ hours kind of sleep, the sleep that so many of us are willing to skip out on without realising how much it is really affecting us.

What are some short-term consequences of reduced sleep?

  • Reduced pain tolerance.
  • Increased cortisol levels.
  • Increased resting heart rate.
  • Reduced cognitive function.
  • Poor mood
  • Increased injury risk

What are the long-term consequences of reduced sleep?

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced insulin sensitivity
  • Poor metabolic function
  • May increase risk for cancer
  • Increased rick of depression
  • Increased rick of a degenerative brain disease

Most sources recommend sleeping between 7-9 hours a night for adults between the ages of 18 and 64. It is also important to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, as this helps us establish our circadian rhythm and over a few weeks will help you fall asleep more quickly and easily, allowing you to wake up feeling more refreshed. As well as gaining consistency on the timing of sleep, there are many other strategies that can help improve how quickly and easily, we fall asleep.

  • Avoiding light from cell phones, computer screens and TVs 1-2 hours before bedtime or wearing blue light filtering glasses after sundown will help reduce your exposure to blue light. Blue light is produced by the sun and exposure to it at the wrong time tricks the brain into thinking its morning and we need to stay awake.
  • Establish a pre-bed routine, our brains love to create habits and find patterns in everything we do. We can use this to our advantage, by creating a routine for every night this will train your brain to recognize that when these things are happening sleep will soon follow. In response our brains will begin to release the neurochemicals that help us fall asleep. An example of a bedtime routine could be; have a shower, make and drink a cup of tea (herbal tea with little or no caffeine), 5-10 min of stretching, brush your teeth and finally prep your bed for sleep.
  • Try not to consume any caffeine after mid-day, we might not feel it, but it can take up 10 hours for all the caffeine in our system to be processed. Even though a lot of us can fall asleep after having had a nighttime coffee it still has an impact on the quality of our sleep.

These are just a few things that can help but there are many other strategies that we can take advantage of to improve our sleep.

It is very easy to neglect sleep, we often feel like we do not have enough hours in the day, so we reduce the time we sleep to add an hour or two to our day. Instead of skipping out on sleep often the best thing we can do is to sleep more and better to allow us to be more, productive, creative, and happy during the day.

Ruben Esterhyse – Coach – H1 CrossFit