Why (And How) To Prioritise Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep can have a huge effect on how you feel, physically and mentally. While getting a good night’s sleep might seem out of reach at times, there are things that you can do to improve the quality of your rest.
Getting a good night of sleep starts with the habits that you have throughout the day. By adjusting your daytime routine, you can improve your sleep at night.
Learn why prioritising getting a good sleep every night is so important to both your health and your fitness and what are some of the healthy habits you can develop to improve your sleep.
Why is sleep important?
The quality of your sleep can affect your health and fitness, from your appetite hormones, to your immune system and cardiovascular health.
Even just one night of inadequate sleep can impact your mood and mental wellbeing. You may feel irritable, unmotivated and sluggish throughout the following day.
When you sleep well, you have more energy, you can concentrate on your tasks for the day, and you’ll even perform better during your workouts!
Sleep is also essential for muscle recovery after a tough workout or when you try a new training style.
Benefits of quality sleep
Get enough sleep and you’ll be reaping the benefits.
There’s no shortage of benefits that come with quality sleep. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best.
You’ll have more energy
When you sleep well, your body works to regulate hormone levels, strengthen your immune system, support healthy brain function, restore temperature regulation and maintain your physical health.
These factors can all contribute to increased energy levels and greater stamina throughtout the day.
Your mood will improve
Quality sleep equals better moods, and that alone can be reason enough to ensure you get a good night’s sleep
Research indicates a link between poor quality sleep and low moods. In fact, it can go both ways. Poor sleep can affect your mood, and your mood can affect your efforts to sleep well!
Research into the effects of sleep on your mood has clearly demonstrated that when you sleep well, you’re much more likely to feel happy and optimistic. Compare this to poor sleep, when you are more likely to feel irritable, sad or unmotivated.
Need we say more?
Greater focus and concentration
Sleep helps to improve how your brain functions. When you get enough sleep, you will be able to think more clearly and concentrate for longer. You’ll also notice that your coordination and athletic performance improve when you sleep well, compared to when you don’t get enough sleep.
Is it as simple as quality sleep equals better concentration and productivity? Yes! And that’s something we can all do with more of.
Reduced stress levels
When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases cortisol, which can keep you awake.
On the flip side, a good night’s sleep can relax the systems in your body that are responsible for this stress response.
Need to stress less? Get to bed earlier and get that sleep.
How does sleep impact fitness?
If you’re not getting enough quality sleep, your energy levels will be low and you might find it challenging to get through your workout in the first place.
It can be especially true if you’re tackling a HIIT workout, which requires high energy and stamina.
Post-workout, if you’re not getting enough sleep, your muscle recovery efforts can suffer, which can lead to DOMS (more on that later) or a compromised immune system.
Sleep and delayed onset muscle soreness
You’re probably familiar with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — this can occur when you workout harder than usual, or complete a strenuous or unfamiliar exercise.
Usually, DOMS comes about 24–48 hours after your workout and can leave you feeling incredibly sore and stiff, which is caused by micro-tears in your muscles.
Here’s the thing: DOMS can be significantly worse if you don’t get enough sleep, and it can delay the ability to overcome DOMS.
If you find yourself suffering from DOMS, prioritise sleep.
It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight
Studies suggest that if you’re not sleeping properly, you are more likely to be overweight. On the other hand, if you get enough quality sleep every night, you’ll find it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
When you don’t get enough sleep, hormone levels of Ghrelin (which increases appetite) and Leptin (which tells us we're full) become imbalanced. The result? You tend to feel more hungry and eat more food than those who are getting enough quality sleep.
Daily habits that can improve your sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep can be easy for some and difficult for others. It can also be influenced by a number of factors that are out of your control.
The good news is there are some habits that you can include in your day to improve your nightly rest. These are some of the changes you can make to your daily routine that can improve your chances of getting a quality sleep.
Take the time to unwind
When you were a child, you might have had a bedtime routine that involved taking a bath, brushing your teeth and reading a bedtime story. Well, bedtime routines aren’t just for children!
You can adopt a healthy nighttime routine that takes you away from the computer screen or TV. You might light some candles, take the time for a warm shower or skincare routine and write in a gratitude journal before going to bed.
Regular workouts can benefit you in so many ways — and one of those ways is helping you to get a better night’s sleep!
Make sure you get some sunlight
If you spend a lot of time indoors, making sure that you are exposed to as much natural light as possible throughout the day can help to regulate your sleep patterns.
Exposure to sunlight helps to regulate the levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, which in turn regulates your circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle.
Sleeping in a dark room can also help. You might use a sleep mask to block out light if your blinds or curtains don’t completely darken the room. Try to avoid exposure to devices during the hour before bed, as this can also impact your sleep hormone regulation.
Limit daytime napping
Napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, especially for shift workers or new parents, however, a long nap may prevent you from getting the rest you need during your next sleep.
Try to keep naps under half an hour, in the early afternoon, to maximise your chances of resting well that night.
Eat healthy meals regularly
It can be very hard to get to sleep if your stomach is rumbling, or if you’ve eaten a large meal close to bedtime. When you are at home all day, it can be tempting to snack on less healthy foods that may not satisfy you completely.
Preparing healthy meals at home can help to ensure that your body has the nutrition it needs, all throughout the day. This can help to reduce nighttime snacking, which is another factor that can contribute to sub-optimal sleep.
When eating your evening meal, eat mindfully to ensure that you are satisfied. Paying attention to what, and how much, you eat in the evening will ensure that you stay full until breakfast, which in turn will help you can get a good night’s rest.
Keep a regular schedule
It’s not always possible to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, but try to follow a similar wake and sleep pattern across your weekdays and weekends.
Doing this will help to stabilise your circadian rhythm and allow your body to fully rest after each day.
Use relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation
Your state of mind has a huge impact on your ability to unwind at the end of the day. While it’s okay to be concerned or worried, repetitive or intrusive thoughts may impact your ability to sleep.
Using meditation and mindfulness techniques can help to reduce any feelings of anxiety throughout the day, which in turn can help you to sleep better at night.
Limit screen time
In the hour leading up to your bedtime, limit — or better yet, cut out — screens (phones, laptops, computers and iPads).
Yep, this means no Instagram, Facebook or YouTube for at least the last hour you’re awake every day.
Instead, try practising gratitude, meditating, journaling or reading a book.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it increases activity in the brain and central nervous system. Let’s be clear: caffeine is exactly what you don’t want as you’re trying to nod off to sleep!
If you can, avoid caffeine at least six hours before you go to bed. Doing this will give you a better chance of falling asleep with ease.
Adopt these habits to care for yourself with better sleep
Sleeping well isn’t always easy to do, especially when you are experiencing change in your life. However, it’s at these times that it is most important to take care of your own wellbeing by giving yourself the rest you need each night.
By adopting healthy habits during times of stress, you will increase your resilience and be able to maximise your energy each day.
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.