Why (& How) To Prioritise Good Sleeping Habits
Sleep can affect how you feel, physically and mentally. While maintaining good sleeping habits might be difficult at times, there are things that you can do to improve the quality of your rest.
Getting solid shut-eye starts with your daily habits. By adjusting your daytime routine, you can improve your sleep at night.
Find out how exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand, why prioritising bedtime is so important and some healthy habits you can develop to guarantee an ultimate night’s sleep.
Why is sleep important?
The quality of your sleep can affect your overall wellbeing — from your appetite to your immune system and cardiovascular health. Even just one night of inadequate rest can impact your mood and mind.
A recent five-year study partly funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) found that irregular sleep patterns may double the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in older adults while maintaining regular sleep patterns could help prevent heart disease, similar to physical activity and a healthy diet.
When you sleep well (most people need between seven and nine hours each night) it’s likely you’ll have more energy, be able to think more clearly, and you might even find you perform better during your workouts.
Adequate rest is also essential for muscle recovery after a tough Sweat session.
Benefits of quality sleep
Get enough sleep and you’ll experience the benefits instantly, including:
According to Harvard Health Publishing, deep sleep promotes repair and enhances your body’s ability to produce its energy molecule, ATP. When you’ve experienced this “slow-wave” sleep, you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed than if your sleep were interrupted during the night.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine found when the sleep of healthy participants was interrupted, there was a 31% reduction in positive moods the next day.
Your mood can also affect your ability to sleep. Patrick H. Finan, PhD, a sleep researcher at Johns Hopkins Medicine says daily stresses or depression itself is often associated with sleep difficulties.
With quality sleep improving your mood, that alone can be reason enough to try and get a good night’s rest.
Greater focus and concentration
Sleep helps to improve how your brain functions, or your cognitive ability. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says when you get enough rest, you’ll think more clearly and creatively, perform better with problem-solving and support your memory. When you feel rested, your coordination and athletic performance may also improve.
Exercise and sleep
Poor sleep affects your energy levels which might make it harder to train, especially if you’re doing a heart-pumping HIIT workout.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your muscle recovery can also suffer, which can lead to delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), or a compromised immune system.
Sleep and delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
You’re probably familiar with DOMS, which can occur when you work out harder than usual or complete a strenuous or unfamiliar exercise. It typically happens about 24–48 hours after your workout and leaves you feeling sore and stiff as a result of micro-tears in your muscles.
If you find yourself suffering from DOMS, prioritising sleep can be a simple way to speed up your recovery during its natural regenerative process.
Sleep and eating habits
The Mayo Clinic and Harvard’s School of Public Health explain that lack of sleep may increase hunger and appetite, including late-night snacking and high-fat and high-carb food intake. It has also been suggested there may be a possible link between sleep restriction and obesity.
While there are still ongoing trials to support the connection between sleep and appetite, current evidence suggests prioritising sleep might help you get closer to your health and fitness goals.
Daily habits that can improve your sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep can be influenced by a number of external factors — sometimes these are out of your control but the good news is there are some habits that you can include in your day to improve your nightly rest.
The American Institute of Stress says when you’re feeling stressed, your body releases stress hormones, including cortisol, as part of the “flight or fight” response. This system is what gets your body ready to retreat or face a dangerous or difficult situation — think about when you’re feeling stressed, your heart might beat faster, your muscles become tense and you might feel like you’re constantly holding your breath. So if you’re under constant stress, there’s no wonder you might lay awake at night.
According to the American Psychological Association, stress is the biggest cause of short-term sleeping problems. But the good thing is there are some simple ways you can manage your stress levels for better sleep including keeping active, eating healthily, journaling and relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation — we’ll go into each of these in more detail further in.
Take time off from technology
Creating a bedtime routine that takes you away from the computer screen, mobile phone or TV can do wonders for your health. Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation says that technology use at night can interfere with your sleep due to the bright light or activities you might be doing on the devices. As a result, you might feel more alert, mentally stimulated or end up going to bed later than you should.
Some ways to limit your technology use before bed include reading a book, focusing on self-care with a nightly skincare routine or writing in a gratitude journal. If you find your phone is too much of a distraction, try charging it in another room overnight and using an old-school alarm clock!
While researchers don’t completely understand the relationship between exercise and sleep, experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine say that evidence has proven working out can help you fall asleep more quickly and improve your sleep quality — and all you need is 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
Exercising close to bedtime can keep some people up at night, but for others, it doesn’t make a difference, so it’s best to listen to your body to determine the ideal time of day to exercise for optimal sleep.
Get some sunlight
If you spend a lot of time indoors, making sure you are exposed to as much natural light as possible throughout the day can help to regulate your sleep patterns.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the light and dark cycles of the sun helps regulate your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) and can affect how alert you are at different times of the day.
Nap only when you need to
Napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, especially for shift workers or new parents — but a long nap or napping after 2 pm may prevent you from getting the rest you need come bedtime.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends limiting afternoon naps to 20 minutes to help you feel refreshed and maximise your chances of resting well that night.
Eat healthy meals regularly
It can be difficult to get to sleep if your stomach is rumbling or if you’ve eaten a large meal close to bedtime. A 2017 review on diet and sleep also found that certain foods, your micronutrient and macronutrient intake and deficiencies may affect your sleep quality.
Preparing healthy meals at home can help provide your body with the nutrition it needs throughout the day and reduce nighttime snacking, which can contribute to sub-optimal sleep.
The American Sleep Association recommends eating a well-balanced diet that includes foods rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, tryptophan and B6 such as poultry, fish, bananas, wholegrains, yoghurt and kale.
Keep a regular schedule
It’s not always possible to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, but following a similar wake and sleep pattern across your weekdays and weekends can help stabilise your circadian rhythm and give your body enough rest.
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.
Using meditation and mindfulness techniques can help to manage stress and reduce any feelings of anxiety throughout the day, which can help you to sleep better at night.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it increases activity in the brain and central nervous system and can affect both how you function during the day and how well you sleep at night.
A 2018 article discussed that while having caffeine during the day can promote a number of benefits such as improving cognitive function and physical performance, consuming it as long as six hours before you go to bed may also significantly disturb your sleep.
While long-term tests are still being conducted to accurately report on the effects of caffeine and sleep quality, it pays to be aware that consuming caffeine before bed may limit your ability to fall 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 changes in your life — but it’s during these times prioritising rest each night is most important.
When you adopt healthy habits and implement some of these ways to improve your quality of sleep, you’ll find you’re in better spirits and have more energy for the activities you love!
What are your best tips and tricks for prioritising good sleeping habits? Share them in the comments!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.