Picture(photo: underscoopfire.com/labor-day)
So I think at this point, many of us are starting to realize that the old, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” adage, will bring the latter part of that phrase along a whole lot sooner than you’d like. It seems everyday, I read a new study showing just how important sleep is for dealing with our mental state, emotional health, and overall well being.

With all of this information coming out though, we as a population, still really suck at getting the required amounts of sleep necessary to promote good health.

You can walk down the street and ask any stranger, “How many hours of sleep should a person get each night?”

Without missing a beat they’ll answer, “8 hours.” (Truth be told, a good amount of us need even more than that.)

Then you could follow that question up with, “How many hours do you sleep each night?”

There’s a dramatic pause, followed by a little math they do in their head, and then the answer comes, “6 maybe…”

If you fall into this category (I definitely used to until I did something about it), you’re probably also stalling a little in regards to achieving your fitness goals as well, especially if you’re one of the many people attempting to lose weight. Weight loss is hard enough, never mind attempting to lose weight with some serious sleep deprivation.

When you’re tired, your body tells you to eat more throughout the day, and often it takes more food at each meal to leave you feeling satisfied. This occurs because when you are sleep deprived your body increases the production of Ghrelin (a hormone that signals when to eat), and decreases its production of Leptin (a hormone which signals to your body when it’s full).

Therein lies the rub.

If your goal is weight loss, you need to be in a calorie deficit, which can be pretty hard to do, when you’re trying to provide yourself energy to get through the day.

In addition to the desire for your body to consume more calories, lack of sleep can also impede your body’s ability to produce correct amounts of key hormones necessary to help you regulate fat loss and aid in recovery, such as testosterone and growth hormone. That’s no bueno when it comes to shedding unwanted pounds.

As you can see sleep deprivation can really mess with your ability to lose weight, and achieve those fitness goals you’ve been reaching for.

Don’t fear though, I’d never just leave you feeling hopeless with nothing you can do to fix it. Here are 5 easy, and actionable things you can do to drastically improve your sleep quality right away.
(Photo: http://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/time_for_bed.html)
  • Create a set bedtime and stick to it every night.

Know what time you need to be up every morning? Good, now count backwards about 9 hours (not 8hrs), and set that as your bed time. No matter what, if you’re home at that time, then you are in bed at that hour.

For example, if you have to be up at 7am every morning, then your bed time would be 10pm. When 10pm rolls around, you’ve already finished brushing your teeth (please do this) and whatever else your nightly routing is, and you are in bed under the covers with the lights out.

I understand this will take some getting used to, and you may have a little bit of trouble falling asleep right away at 10pm, but that’s why we accounted for 9hrs instead of 8hrs. This will help ensure that you get at least the 8hrs you need.

If per chance, you find that you need more than 8hrs of sleep, and many people do, then recalculate and make sure you’re getting the necessary amount of sleep, plus the 1 hour extra to adjust to the new bedtime and account for falling asleep

(Photo: http://www.techspot.com/downloads/3192-alarm-clock-pro.html)
  • Have a Set Wake-Up Time

Repeat after me, “I (say your name) will not hit the snooze button multiple times every morning.”

Seriously though, when you think about it, instead of just setting your alarm for a time way earlier than you actually need to get up, then hitting the snooze button and attempting to do math while you’re half awake to figure out how many more times you can press snooze before you actually need to be up, you could just have more time full of uninterrupted sleep.

In addition to actually getting more high quality sleep, you’re going to further the mentality of a start and stop time for your body with regards to when you sleep and when you’re awake.

Structure is a good thing here folks. It might feel weird at first, but it’ll pay off I promise.
(Photo: https://www.nicabm.com/brain-electronics-the-brain-and-sleep54892/)
  • Avoid Electronics Before Bedtime

I admittedly really struggle with this one myself. We are all pretty much glued to some sort of screen for a good majority of the day, and it can be pretty hard to unplug from everything.

Even when we’ve finally finished checking our last email, facebook post, etc. and turned the TV off, we’re still carrying around our cell phone looking at it, or leaving it on just in case of (insert excuse to have your phone with you here).

The problem is that these sources of electronic lights seem to really stimulate our brain. Blue Light, a type of light that penetrates deeper into our corneas, has especially shown in studies to suppress melatonin in our brains for significant amounts of time, which in turn, can greatly disrupt our circadian rhythm.

The take away, turn off the TV, power down the tablet and laptop, and for god sake turn your phone off and leave it somewhere away from your bed.

(Photo: http://www.coffeekick.co.uk/)
  • Cut Back on Your Caffeine/Stimulant Intake

Easy to say and hard to do, trust me I know. I love coffee and even those god awful energy drinks (Don’t judge me!)

For me, my morning coffee is something I look forward to. It’s more than just a means of waking up, I enjoy the taste of nice dark roast coffee and the great aroma associated with a freshly brewed pot.

The problem lies when we start consuming very large amounts of caffeine throughout the day as it can obviously keep us alert for longer periods of time, and causes the body stress because it needs to breakdown that caffeine which can impede our ability to recover.

Your body’s ability to recover effectively is going to play a huge part in your success since recovery is when all the good stuff happens.

(Photo: http://catalinari.com/wordpress1/participants/volunteer/shutterstock_117021031/)
  • Go See Your Doctor!

If all the above tips don’t prove to be helpful after a couple weeks of really (and I mean really) sticking to them all, for heaven's sake go see your doctor. 

There are many different sleep disorders, and you could be somebody that suffers from one of them. I was, and once I was diagnosed and properly medicated, in addition to practicing the tips I stated above I began actually getting good quality sleep. As a result, I had way more energy throughout the day, my testosterone levels increased (this was tested by my doctor), and my focus was better.

The doctor may suggest something as small as supplementing with something such as Melatonin, which has some actual data showing its efficacy, or have you schedule a sleep study to see what may be going on.

Whether it’s something like sleep apnea (which many people have unknowingly, especially those who are looking to lose weight), to something like I have RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), to just plain old insomnia, your doctor can help you correct it, and your sleep quality will improve.

Try implementing these 5 new tips, and start sleeping better, recovering better, and kicking more ass throughout the day!

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Samantha McCarthy
03/28/2016 3:05pm

Awesome article Rob! This is one thing I always ask my clients about if they are trying to lose weight. It's like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Adequate sleep has to be apart of a healthy lifestyle or you are missing out.

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