Fitness is a tool to help us live a meaningful life and it´s compromised of 4 principles: diet, exercise, sleep and stress. They all work together to give us the best results so everything we do affects all of them. From these 4 principles most we pay more attention to diet and exercise than to sleep and stress and they play a huge role on maintaining optimal health
We´ve seen in other posts that sleep is highly important, one night of poor sleep makes it harder for us to concentrate and perform, we feel tired and lack motivation, cravings for unhealthy food increase, it takes all hormones out of balance and it can lead to insulin resistance, now imagine if this lack of sleep or poor quality sleep becomes chronic, the negative impact on the long run is devastating.
Sleep is affected when we´re exposed to bright light at night, when the sun comes down everything is getting darker, this exposure to bright light sends the wrong signals to our brain through our eyes so it doesn´t release melatonin which is the hormone that makes us fall asleep. If we´re in front of a computer, laptop, cellphone, tv or any other electronic device before going to bed we´re sending the wrong information to our brain so it will takes us longer to fall asleep and we may not get the best quality sleep.
Stress is also important when it comes to getting enough high quality sleep, most of us live wight chronic stress thanks to school, our job, our teachers, our boss, classmates, coworkers, homework, projects, meetings, traffic plus relationships, finances. When we go to sleep our mind is busy thinking about how we´re going to pay the bills, how are we going to make it until the next pay check, how are we going to finish the project in three days, etc; all this stress do not let our brain and body relax and calm down so it´s difficult to fall asleep and to stay sleep, we may wake up constantly thanks to all those worries disrupting our sleep.
What we eat also impacts the quality and quantity of sleep, if you eat a big meal right before going to bed your body will be working on digesting all that food instead of preparing to sleep, all that food in your stomach may make you feel tired and lazy so you go to sleep and you may find it easier to fall asleep, but this doesn´t mean that your body is working and doing what it´s supposed to be doing during sleep. If that meal makes you feel bloated, constipated or any other digestive symptom then you will find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep making it a bad night sleep.
Exercise also plays a role in the quality and quantity of sleep, most people are sedentary so they´re not aware of this. Exercise improves both, quality and quantity of sleep and it doesn´t need to be something intense and long, even small walks will give you great benefits. With exercise the time of day also has an impact, if you do a moderate to high intensity workout it´ll be harder to fall asleep whether it´s cardio or resistance training. If you exercise in the morning you´ll find it easier to fall asleep.
We´ve talked before about habits and routines, this habits and routine apply to the 4 principles of fitness, in this case stress, diet and exercise all affect sleep. Some simple steps you can start following today are:
1.- Turn off all electronic devices at least 60 minutes before going to bed.
2.- Do breathing exercise before falling sleep to reduce stress.
3.- Make sure you have your last meal 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
4.- Do some physical activity especially in the morning.
You can start with one of this steps and do it for a couple of weeks until you feel comfortable with it and then add another one. Our goal is to develop healthy habits that lead to a healthy lifestyle.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post please share it with them and don´t forget to follow us on Twitter.