SEMM – Sleep!
In the introduction to this series, we talked about how the Four Pillars of Health hold us up and help us to live better lives. This time, I want to talk with you about sleep and why it’s so important.
Basically, the TL;DR answer is if you don’t sleep, you’ll recover poorly, eat more sugar, likely gain extra fat, and eventually go insane if your lack of sleep is severe enough. So if you like to say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” it’s probably not your best strategy if you’re not in a hurry to get there.
Sleep is awesome. It’s the only time of day where you can totally relax, recharge, recover, and re-some other stuff. If you aren’t aware, it’s generally recommended that you sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night for optimal health.
Everyone is different, and each person has a different requirement for nightly rest. That being the case, almost no one has a nightly requirement for peak performance that falls in the 4-6 hours per night window.
Most of the sleep complaints I hear fall into just a few categories, so let’s address each briefly.
1 A new season of life. There’s something in the water at SRCF and babies keep appearing every few months! I LOVE IT, but it does mean that sleep is likely to be interrupted for awhile. That’s ok. In different seasons of life, there are more important things than being the best athlete in the gym. Caring for a newborn is one of those seasons. I hear getting a new puppy can have a similar effect on your nighttime rhythms.
In this case, do your best. If you can fit a nap into your day, take advantage of it! Do a some experimenting on duration until you find a nap length that helps you feel better and not worse. Mine is around 17 minutes right now if I’m not going to sleep for an hour and a half.
2. Stress! 2020 has really been a whopper. We’re all dealing with “new normals” and “present circumstances” and other “nondescript descriptions.” We’ll dig more into dealing with stress in a future post, but for now try these ideas. Before you go to bed, spend 5 minutes putting your ideas on paper. If you tend to ruminate on the day, debrief yourself. If you tend towards anxiety about tomorrow, put your plan for the day in ink. Spend 5 minutes stretching your legs and hips. While you’re doing both of those things, work on slowing your breathing, especially focusing on slow exhales. Avoid screens and social media during your evening cooldown.
3. Bad habits. If you just have to tap next episode or scroll your thumb one more time, you could be losing sleep for no good reason. We all love to be entertained, but do a quick cost/benefit analysis next time. If I find myself mindlessly scrolling through social media, I’ll often drop it because if I’m going to waste time, I want to do it intentionally on something more fun than that. Streaming shows and social media outlets spend a lot of money on holding your attention, and they’re good at it. If you’re spending your sleep time staring at screens, it will both cut your sleep short and make it harder to get to sleep when you’re ready to turn in.
Your challenge is to simply pay attention to your sleep habits. What do you do immediately before bed? Does it help or hurt your bedtime routine? Are you waking up rested or never getting enough sleep? Take a little self-audit and see how you can take advantage of your best recovery method.