When investing into your fitness journey, locking in with training isn’t the only variable that you should be focusing on. There are many different fundamentals that you need to be ticking off if you want to get the most out of your training journey, one of which being recovery. One of the biggest, and most overlooked components of recovery is sleep.
Sleep is important, not just for physique development, but for health reasons too as it minimises the risk of disease. It is essential for recovery when it comes to physical and mental training performance. Additionally, as sleep is related to hormones that control muscle growth and fat loss, it affects body composition. For all these reasons, utilising sleep as a recovery device will maximise progress when it comes to training.
To do this, there are some factors that you need to take into account, like sleep quantity, sleep quality, establishing a sleep routine, environment, exercise and nutrition.
How much sleep your body needs will vary from person to person, but, on average, you should be aiming for anywhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. You may start to see negative effects, such as feeling lethargic, if you are oversleeping, as well as undersleeping.
Sleep quality and sleep quantity come hand in hand. If you are sleeping for 8 hours, but your quality of sleep is poor, then your recovery will also be poor. Thus, the quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity of your sleep. The quality of your sleep is dependent on factors like how much time you spend in your bed when you’re not sleeping, how long it takes you to fall asleep and how much you wake up in the night.
One way to improve the quality of your sleep is to form a healthy relationship between your brain and the bed. What I mean by this is, when you’re not sleeping, try to spend a minimal amount of time in or on your bed. Try and associate your bed with only sleeping. This means not doing work in your bed, not eating in your bed or not watching television in your bed, for example.
It is also important that you switch your mind off before you go to sleep. This will help you fall asleep quicker, making the quality of your sleep better. There’s many antidotes you can use to do this, and what works for you may not work for someone else. But a few ways that you can try and switch off is by doing yoga, meditation, journaling or reading. Staying away from blue light, like your phone screen, for about an hour before bed time will also help your mind and eyes switch off.
HAVING A GOOD SLEEP ROUTINE
Having a good sleep routine is a huge factor that will affect the quality and the quantity of your sleep. This comes down to your circadian rhythm, which is essentially your body’s clock. Your circadian rhythm consists of multiple processes in your body, like your sleepiness, alertness, body temperature and your appetite. An optimal way to control your circadian rhythm is to align it with daylight, so try to wake up when it gets light and sleep when it’s dark. Granted, this is more difficult in the winter months as it gets light a lot earlier and the daylight period is shorter, but as long as you maintain the general gist of sleeping when it’s night and being awake in the day, then your sleep routine should be pretty beneficial to your recovery.
Being consistent with your sleep routine will also prove to be beneficial in terms of recovery. This means waking up and falling to sleep at around the same time each day, including weekends (if your sleep routine is optimal, you shouldn’t need a lay in at the weekend). Having a good sleep routine also helps with organisation and time management. For example, if you sleep from 10pm until 6am, you know you have from 6am to around 8pm to crack on with your day. If you’ve got your organisation and time management on lock, it’s likely that you’ll be less stressed, in turn, helping you sleep better.
Environment is often an overlooked factor when it comes to maximising sleep quality. It’s important to make sure that you ensure your environment is appropriate for optimising your sleep. For example, make sure that your room is at room temperature. Falling asleep in a cooler environment is better. Also, avoiding things that make noise, like fans or leaving your television on. Sleeping in the dark and avoiding any light sources will also help with the quality of sleep.
EXERCISE AND NUTRITION
Regular exercise has proven to positively affect sleep efficiency and quality. However, heavy exercise should be avoided close to bedtime as it’s essential that you are in a relaxed state prior to sleeping. Nutrition can also have a big effect on sleep. For example, sugary meals, or going to sleep on a full stomach can hinder sleep quality. Additionally, having caffeine around 6-8 hours before bedtime can negatively affect recovery.
Recovery is an essential part of progression. If you want to learn more about recovery, or if you just generally want to progress, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our coaches. If you join the One Coaching team, you will have unlimited access to educational content, like that of this blog post, to help you reach your full potential.