In attempting to stick to your New Year's fitness resolutions, you might have overlooked the necessity for restorative sleep. As I'm certain you know, it's crucial for your health to give your body the rest it needs. Making time for sound sleep, as well as relaxation, needs to be part of everyone's fitness program.
Perhaps you also know that I participate in triathlons: a sport where sleep and recovery is called "The Fourth Discipline" (after swimming, biking and running). This discipline is treated as an imperative when undergoing preparation for any race.
The amount of sleep most of us require for optimal functioning is between 7 and 9 hours per day. Researchers are not yet sure why, but sleeping longer does not offer us much benefit. And sleeping less than 7 hours a day wreaks havoc on our hormone levels (Leptin, Ghrelin, HGH, Cortisol, and so on). Our stress and hunger hormones skyrocket, often causing us to overeat ("comfort food" especially).
We have less energy and less ability to focus, which usually results in poor physical and mental performance. The body needs restorative sleep or it cannot work on building healthy, lean tissue, or burning fat effectively.
So, what can we do to sleep better? Daily exercise! Think of it this way: When you exercise, you actually sleep better; when you sleep better, you have more energy to exercise, which helps you sleep better, and...you get the picture.
Watching what you eat also helps you catch the Zzzz's you need. Try being aware of how much and how often you eat, as well as what foods may interfere with getting a good night's rest.
Caffeinated drinks can be a major culprit; I speak from experience here.
Once I gave up my espresso habit, my sleep patterns improved significantly. Alcohol consumption can also interfere with restorative sleep, according to the research.
You might fall asleep quickly, but in the middle of the night, as your body tries to metabolize the booze, you will end up turning and tossing in your bed. What we put into our bodies has a direct effect on the quality and length of our sleep.
Other suggestions to help you with this important Fourth Discipline: Keep your bedroom cool, pitch-dark and free of electronics...the TV, in particular. Your bedroom should be a space for sleep and sex only!
In addition, if there is anything troubling you in the evening, try to put it aside until morning. You can always deal with it the next day.
Relaxing activities, such as hiking, meditation, light yoga, stretching and flexibility exercises, can increase your sleep quotient, also. One of my favorites is a smooth session on the Allegro 2® Pilates Reformer, in my VOC training studio.
Its versatility does wonders for the body at every level (from athletic to rehab), all at a very easy, relaxed pace. Optimizing the energy levels of my trainees, and thus their quality of sleep, is part of my work as a certified trainer.
Once you're in the habit of daily exercise, you'll start sleeping better, believe me. And you'll discover how a good night's sleep is a vital discipline in your overall fitness routine.
Magdalena is the owner of the "Be Fit Fit" Personal Training Studio (www.befitfit.biz). Her "Be Fit Fit" Blog can be read on www.verdenews.com