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Better Sleep For Better Fitness

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Last week we talked about sleep cycles and their role in getting a good night’s sleep.  Today, we are going to take some advice from author Brett Blumenthal and his book, 52 Small Changes For The Mind.  Good sleep is critical to good mental and physical fitness.  Can you survive on 4 hours of sleep a night?  You can for a while, but sooner or later it will catch up.  I remember a time where I averaged about 3-4 hours of sleep Monday through Friday for quite a few years.  I worked my tail off, night and day, and then did my best to catch up on sleep on the weekends.  And, yes, at my family’s cost.  This is no way to live and the impact on my physical health and family relationships suffered.  Optimally, you want to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  This can be tough to do sometimes, but it needs to be the rule.  As always, there will be exceptions, but you should do your absolute best to stick to this schedule.

In order to make the best of the 7-8 hour window you provide yourself for sleep, author Brett Blumenthal provides a number of  other recommendations.  Let’s discuss a few and how you can use them to get a better night’s sleep.  It all starts with a sleep schedule…

Have A Sleep Schedule

In order to keep a good sleep schedule, you have to have a sleep schedule.  No, you should not play it by ear.  You HAVE to have a plan.  Your goal should be to go to bed the same time each night and wake up the same time each morning, even on weekends.  Yes, that’s right…even on weekends.  I have to confess that I find it easy to stick to my sleep schedule Monday – Friday, but difficult to keep to that same schedule on the weekends.  Though this is tough, the best way to address it is to plan to stick to your same bedtime if there is nothing going on.  If you are in the house anyway, just go to bed your normal time.  Your body will thank you for it in the long run!!!

Exercise Early

To be clear, you don’t have to actually exercise early, as in 5 or 6am, but Mr. Blumenthal does recommend you exercise no closer than 5-6 hours before your bedtime.  If you exercise within this window, you risk messing up your sleep patterns and cycles.  This can cause for a restless sleep and that groggy, tired feeling when you wake up in the morning.  I have to admit that I don’t follow this recommendation.  I exercise about 4 hours before bed time and seem to be fine.  Just keep this in mind as you are setting up your exercise and sleep schedules.  If it is a problem for you, make some adjustments.

Things To Avoid Before Bedtime

In the book, it is recommended that you avoid the following things before bedtime:

  • Caffeine after 2pm
  • Late afternoon naps
  • Medications
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Large meals, processed sugars, and beverages within 2 hours of bedtime
  • Computer, television, or phone screens
  • Work

All of these items can make it difficult to go to sleep.  I know that if I work right before bed time, I take the problem end to take work to bed with me, dreaming about a problem I was working on.  Just as there are things to avoid before bedtime, the book recommends some things to enjoy before bedtime.

Things To Enjoy Before Bedtime

  • A small cup of herbal tea 1 hour before bedtime
  • A warm bath, hot shower, steam or sauna
  • Relaxing music or sounds of nature
  • Meditation
  • A good book
  • Aromatherapy
  • A massage
  • Write in a journal

All of these items can put you in a better position for a good night’s rest.  Personally, I enjoy a pretty warm bath and some light reading before I go to bed.  I confess that if I feel too tired to read, I will sorta watch a 20 minute comedy show.  This doesn’t seem to affect my sleep, so I can get away with a little television right before bed.

Final Thoughts

Do NOT underestimate the value of regular, good nights of sleep for your overall mental and physical health.  It is critical that you take care of your body and your mind.  If you are not getting good rest, your judgement may be impaired.  If you suffer from poor sleep for long periods of time, the compound effect can be devastating, resulting is loss productivity, lost money, and Lord forbid, major health issues.  Take some of the advice from Mr. Blumenthal and his book, 52 Small Changes For The Mind, and implement a sleep schedule.  Stick to it 7 days a week and watch the compound effect of this great habit improve your life.  You can’t be the great person you are if you are robbing yourself of the optimal sleep needed for your mental and physical well being.  Be purposeful with your sleep schedule and rituals, it will pay off big time.  Now…sweet dreams!!!

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