As I have told many of you, I have difficulty sleeping. I often cannot fall asleep and when I am sleeping the slightest sound wakes me up. Then it is difficult to get back to sleep. While this may enhance my home defense, it also makes for a miserable day come the following morning.
Here’s the problem with too little sleep: In addition to making you stupid, clumsy, forgetful and lazy, it makes you fat and weak. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in substances that make you feel satiated and elevations in those that make you hungry. Lack of sleep causes you to crave high carbohydrate foods and since you are too tired to cook, you will reach for the most convenient, which probably makes the least nutritious option within reach.
Too little sleep is the just beginning of a cascade of unhealthy behavior: No sleep leads to crappy food choices which in turn leads to no intensity during your WOD or even worse, no WOD.
So, if you have trouble sleeping what can you do? Here’s seven things I have tried and, together, they usually get me a good nights sleep.
#1-Get to bed early. Think of every hour before midnight as worth two hours after. No one is programmed biologically to stay up late and many studies have shown that the quality of sleep declines the later you go to bed.
#2-Limit eating before bedtime. A good rule of thumb is not to eat a large meal any later than three hours before bedtime. This is especially true if you suffer from acid reflux problems (in which case you should probably take a close look at what you’re eating.)
#3-Limit alcohol before bedtime. Many people think of booze as a sedative. While it may make you drowsy at first you will have difficulty achieving deep sleep as your body metabolises the alcohol. This means you are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night and will be less rested in the morning.
#4-Make your room dark and quiet. Turn off the lights in adjacent rooms. Turn off any nightlights or blinking electronic devices. If you are forced to sleep during the day, try putting aluminum foil on your windows. Don’t let your spouse read in bed next to you with that little light on her kindle shining on your eyelids. (Just kidding, baby)
#5-Limit stimulus before bedtime. The bright lights of a television trick your brain in to thinking it’s daytime. Turning off the tube at least an hour before you hit the rack will let your brain power down and get ready for good sleep.
#6-Meditation. Mindfulness practice , similar to what some of you may have done during the Whole Life challenge, can also help you prepare for sleep. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Researh Center (yes, there is such a thing) has free guided meditations including one to help you sleep.
#7-Sleep aids. Finally, you can try some herbal sedatives like Valerian root or natural substances like melatonin. I recently tried Advocare’s SleepWorks, which contains both of these substances, for twelve days straight. It did help me fall asleep faster and although I still woke occasionally, I was able to go back to sleep almost immediately. I was not as groggy as I had been when I tried products over the counter products containing diphenhydramine.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s past my bedtime! Good night.