The first things that come to mind when we think about fitness are high-intensity exercises paired with a good nutrition plan. But, while fitness and nutrition are clearly related, by focusing too much on only these two factors, it is possible to forget about the importance of sleep as a main fuel for a good fitness routine.
Sleep is just as important as nutrition, exercise and mindfulness when it comes to building and maintaining a healthy body. Embedding pro-sleep habits into your daily wellness routine is a must to optimise your health, energy levels, hormones and mood as fitness and nutrition both depend on your sleep.
Not getting enough sleep is now officially a public health problem in the general population. Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke. Busy lives with tight schedules can make us go through our days without thinking. If we are not getting enough sleep, we will not be able to be at our optimum in any area of our lives. A lack of sleep could be the key reason why you are not eating healthier, more nutritional food or why you don’t feel energetic when exercising.
A few years ago, I was proactively doing everything at the highest level – an intense fitness routine and eating the best I could on a nutritional level. However, I had almost no rest days and a chronic lack of sleep. Why? I thought I was literally wasting my time if I was sleeping instead of doing something more productive. In the medium-long term, I started feeling less energetic during the day, especially while training, and I had constant cravings for sugar to get that quick energy fix and raise my blood sugar levels so it also negatively affected my impulse control. This turned into a rollercoaster, one that was hard to get out of.
I was relying on quick meals with no nutritional value to be at my highest fitness level just because lack of sleep was a poor habit. Inconsistent sleep times and inadequate quantity of sleep can also negatively affect your impulse control and when you are not in a good mood, unconsciously you give up following healthy routines.
So, if you’re struggling to accomplish a goal and can’t figure out why, try overhauling your sleep habits and then giving it another go. Sleep should be (and can be!) an important part of your wellness routine.
My top 7 sleep tips
- Create a consistent sleep schedule and try to stick to it every day, even on weekends – a set time for going to bed and a set time for rising.
- Create a calming bedtime routine to wind down before sleep – this will help you to sleep deeper.
- Avoid being either hungry or full when going to bed – this will help your digestion and may help you to wake up in a better mood.
- Avoid stark temperature contrasts for sleeping – air conditioning in summer or warming up your room too much in winter. However, cool air may improve the quality of your sleep so opening the windows a few minutes before sleeping can really help – find the right balance for you.
- The earlier you go to sleep, the better. The hours slept before midnight are usually higher quality than those after – try to fall asleep during the day you woke up in and wake up again the next day.
- Having a hot shower followed by a simple routine of applying body lotion before sleeping, might really help.
- Ensure your bedroom is a place of rest – completely dark if possible (if you cannot get it completely dark, try an eye mask) and quiet. Leave your phone in another room if possible (use an alarm clock to wake if necessary).