In honor of "springing forward" your clock last weekend, and losing that hour of sleep, here is a reminder that you’ve got to make sleep a priority.
While you’re asleep, a number of important things happen. Studies have suggested a lack of sleep does a number of negative things to your general well being such as decreased testosterone, an increase in cortisol (a stress hormone), and results in a greater tendency to be overweight or obese, etc.
For optimal results, you need to get between 8 and 9 hours of sleep, but you definitely need at least 7. Particularly while trying to burn body fat and/or put on muscle. Because there is some debate as to how much variety there is in individual sleep needs, let’s just focus on how to maximize sleep quality!
1) Get into a consistent sleep routine and stick with it. Try to have the same process every night, this will train your body, and make it more effective about sleeping. Circadian rhythms and natural cycles are a real thing. Being consistent in your sleep schedule will help your body develop a pattern and start to expect bedtime at the appropriate time.
2) Think about what you put in your body. If you’re sensitive to stimulants, you may want to cut your caffeine intake a long ways out before bed (if I drink a cup of coffee after lunch-time, I can't fall asleep until significantly later). If you drink too much water right before bed, your bladder might wake you up halfway through the night. There is much variation between individuals here, but know what works for you and what doesn't.
Side-note here: Most people process alcohol in a way that is disruptive to sleep. It may help you doze off, but in the long run you are going to make your body more weary because your sleep quality will be lower. Read more here.
3) Beds are for sleeping. Start to unwind an hour before bed. Remember, we’re shooting for 7 to 9 hours of SLEEP, not 2 to 3 hours in your bed on Social Media/Email/watching your 50 inch plasma TV (remember light causes you to wake up, not wind down) and 5 to 6 hours of sleep. If you want to get 8 hours, maybe get in bed 9 hours before you have to be up and read a book. Don't work in bed, as that will trigger your brain to stay awake as well. If you want to unwind in bed for 30 minutes to an hour, read a book (preferably an enjoyable or a boring one), and then doze off.
4) Set up your Environment. Make sure your curtains block out the light so the room is as pitch black as possible (light triggers the body to want to begin it's wake up time). Invest in quality sleeping accoutrements (good mattress, sheets, pillows, etc.) because you spend about 1/3 of your life in bed. Consider using white noise if you live in a noisy area (or if you have two screaming babies at home, like yours truly). Try to make sure your room is a comfortable temperature for sleeping (studies like this one recommend somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit).
5) Clear your mind before bed. Life can be stressful, I often find myself reminiscing on childhood, when my biggest worries were getting my homework done, and how long mom was going to let me play outside. Nowadays I feel like everything and the kitchen sink is thrown my way every single day. Here are a few solutions: jot down what is pre-occupying your mind in a journal, meditate to clear the thoughts, do some gentle and relaxing stretches, calmly process what you accomplished today and what you will get done tomorrow, etc.