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Sleep: your cheapest and BEST recovery tool

Google "workout recovery" and watch the advice flood in. Everyone wants to know what latest supplement they can take, tool they can buy or thing they can do to help accelerate recovery. From foam rolling, soft-tissue tools, ice baths, protein, BCAAs or another pill to pop, it is clear to see that most people in the gym know the importance of recovery. Rest days are crucial and allowing your body time to build back from the breakdown results in more gains. More recovery = more gains!


But one of the most overlooked, if not THE MOST overlooked, recovery tool is sleep. We all do it already anyways so why not try to optimize how much you sleep as well as how well you sleep and watch those gains start flooding in!



WHY?

Sleep has shown to improve performance including reaction time and sprint speeds, reduce injury and can even improve testosterone levels! Sleep reduces inflammation, improves your immune system, can help prevent weight gain, reduces levels of cortisol (stress hormone), improves your mood, and improves memory. The list just seems to go on and on of the benefits of sleep. Yet we still seem to put it on the back burner.


The ideal amount of sleep is 7-8 hours per night...uninterrupted! Yikes! Many people think they are getting 8 hours because they go to bed at 10:00 and get up at 6:00. But most people toss and turn, even wake up for an hour or more a night. (You don't remember it). This cuts into your total sleep time. Some of you, I know go to bed at 11:00 and then are up at 5:00 for work-out...that's less than 6 hours! You are putting yourself at a higher risk of injury, sickness and long-term even death.


So how do we improve our sleep?

First of all, do more of it. Aim to be in bed for at least 8-9 hours. But if you find that time is hard to get, let's find ways where we can make your sleep quality a little better. Then we can start to slowly increase that quantity.


Steps to take to improve your sleep hygiene:

  1. Make your room cold: 60-65 degrees

  2. Dark room: no lights from electronics, blackout curtains and/or use an eye mask

  3. No blue light 1 hour (minimum) before bed. This includes phones and TV. If you just can't get away from that, try wearing blue light blocking glasses or filtering the blue light on your phone.

  4. Consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed the same time every night and get up the same time every day, even the weekends. Aim for at least within a 30 minute window. If you are getting quality sleep during the week, you don't need the "sleep in" weekends.

  5. Save the bedroom for sleep and sex only. Doing other activities in bed like watching TV or eating, triggers your brain to be more alert when in bed. Try to save the bed just for sleep so your brain knows it is time to wind down when your head hits the pillow.

  6. Nix the caffeine intake after 2:00 pm. The half-life of caffeine is 7 hours. So try to avoid caffeinated beverages within 7 hours of going to bed. Look at what you are drinking- many things you don't think about have caffeine. Sweet or unsweet tea, hot tea, coffee, pre-workout, Dr. Pepper and Coke all have caffeine so careful to avoid these types of drinks in the afternoon.

  7. No large meals within 2-3 hours of bedtime.

  8. No alcohol within 2-3 hours of bed- despite the fact that many people think they sleep better with alcohol. It is a false notion. Alcohol is a sedative so it may help you fall asleep but it will alter your sleep patterns drastically and you won't get good quality sleep.

  9. Have trouble falling asleep? I bet you won't after making some of the changes above but if you do, try listening to white noise while you practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing.

Does it seem overwhelming? Pick 1 thing to change a week and work on that. Small habits lead to big changes. Every little bit extra sleep you get is more recovery you can count on!



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