Sleep. So important, but perhaps underrated and undervalued?
Quite possibly. Sleep is the bodies chance to heal, repair and grow. It when it has chance to do the maintenance work with out us interfering. It is for this reason that is recommend we don’t eat large meals or even at all before we go to bed. If the body has to focus on digesting food, it’s putting energy and time into that instead of helping us with something else.
In terms of exercise, this is when you make your gains. Repairing micro tears in the muscles fibres, and this isn’t exclusive to those who lift heavy. This can be from a slightly longer or faster walk, a fitness class or running around after the kids. All these things require some form of healing. The body can’t do that as effectively if it is still putting energy into digesting food, thinking and generally operating your daily life!
The same is true for injury and post surgery, and again is why getting rest is so important after these events. Any new mum will tell you, that rest and sleep is one of the most common things they are told.
Now all this sounds well and good but sometimes, it isn’t always that simple, particularly if you are suffering with insomnia, or do have a small or even bigger child who doesn’t sleep. The body doesn’t have as much time to make these repairs. This is when quality trumps quality.
Having a room set up for sleep is key to a) unwinding and preparing your body to sleep and b) keeping it asleep for as long as possible.
A dark room, thats cool with no screens is one of the best places to start. Thick curtains, layers for blankets can also be useful tools to ensuring quality sleep. Sometimes getting 8 hours isn’t doable, and like everything some us need more and some less.
Another great tip thats quite well known is timings, having the same bed time and wake up time. This again almost sets a clock that your body recognizes and so will naturally start to prepare for these times.
Avoiding heavy exercise, caffeine and alcohol before bed is also important. These are all stimulants and will start to ‘wake’ up your brain instead of winding down. If you feel you need to exercise and late in the evenings is the only time to do, try something more mindful such as Pilates, Yoga or Tai Chi, The concentration, breathing and low intensity of these classes may even help you wind down before bed time.
And then there is breathing. Slow, long breath work can help to slow your heart rate down, increase oxygen to your body and again promote sleep. Done in a dark room, in bed may even help you to drift off, especially if combined with some mindfulness or soothing music.
So the take home is to think of the quality of sleep not the quantity of sleep. Your body has natural clock, try and tap into it and promote it as much as possible. Keep your bedroom, for sleep only, not games, TV or work.