Energy

Basic Lifestyle Guideline: Sleep (Continued) - How to Improve Sleep

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As we discussed in our last blog post, sleep should be one of our highest priorities. When looking to improve sleep quality, rhythm is one of the first things to work on.

It may sound easy, but often we do not follow the principles of rhythm with our sleep. Getting in to a rhythm can help you see increase in your performance. Here are the steps to get through this process:

  • Fall asleep and wake up roughly at the same time every day (plus or minus 30 minutes on either). As you get more used to it, you may wake up prior to your alarm and may also fall asleep more easily.

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Having the proper environment is also important. Sleep hygiene is setting up the best possible environment to fall asleep in. That means:

  • Blacking out all of the lights

  • Dropping the temperature of the room to roughly 67 degrees Fajrenheit

  • Eliminating any other noises or hums (caveat of white noise that allows someone to fall asleep)

  • Creating an environment in your bedroom, or wherever you sleep consistently, that means that it is a place for sleeping. That may look like removing a cell phone or tv. Eliminate all of the other tasks that you feel the need to do in your bedroom so that your body interprets that room as a place to sleep.

Some of the other distractions or disruptors in your bedroom may be:

  • Eating in bed

  • Working in bed

  • Reading in bed

  • Watching tv

Going to bed as calm as possible helps our bodies recognize that it’s time to start winding down, which helps you stay in a great rhythm throughout the night and in to the next day(s).

Developing a nightly routine can help this. Here are some things that could help with your nightly routine:

  • Massage - Can help some people relax before they go to bed.

  • Avoiding a hot shower before bed - For some people, raising their body temperature too high may cause them to not sleep well because they are not cooling naturally. We do not want to work against the body’s natural lowering of it’s temperature throughout the night.

  • Contrast baths or showers - Going from hot to cold and finishing on cold can rush some blood flow to the digestive organs and start the process of cooling off the external portion of the body to get the body better suited for sleep.

  • Non-vigorous light stretching - Some basic stretching movements can calm the body down and ease people in to a better state of sleep.

  • Journaling or writing in a diary - A little bit of a brain dump can lower anxiety.

  • Breathwork - Breathing diaphragmatically helps elicit the parasympathetic response.

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The more you can dial in on your sleep, the more your basic health, blood chemistry, results, recovery and performance in your workouts will go up. Something as simple as implementing some sleep patterns can work magic!

If your struggling to get in to a rhythm, try this:

Use Google calendar, iCal or Outlook to create a calendar for the week. Plot out what time you eat, use the restroom, work, train, sleep, etc. each day for one week. Find inconsistencies from day to day and play with the idea of being able to make small tweaks +/- 30 minutes to help make more alignment between these elements on a day-to-day basis.

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Basic Lifestyle Guideline: Breath

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Breathing is one of the first things we do as a baby, but it is also one of the first things that we break as adults.

With the increase of stress, panic, exercise, volume, intensity, etc… people often begin breathing vertically in to their chests which reduces diaphragmatic breathing into their stomachs. Unfortunately for us, when we don’t breathe diagrammatically, we don’t vibrate the vagus nerve. Without the vibration of the vagus nerve, we don’t “turn on” our parasympathetic nervous system, and we don’t reduce stress. (check out our last blog post on stress here).

Balance refers to the balance of our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system “netting” to 0. We want both systems to “equal” out so that we do not fall into the “fight or flight” sympathetic system or the “rest and digest” parasympathetic system too often.

Quality diaphragmatic breathing can serve as a great way to balance out your nervous system.

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Here are two ways you can start to “breathe better”:

  • Take 50 breaths after your workout with your hand on your stomach - Ensure your stomach rises with every breath at roughly 3 seconds in and 9 seconds out.

  • Setting timers to go off throughout the day - Every time you hear the ding, take 10 quality breaths. If you do 12 of those per day, that’s 120 breaths per day and 3,600 breaths throughout the month.

Either of these are systematic ways to elicit your body to change the way that you breath and “relax” on a regular basis.

It generally takes up to 500 repetitions to establish a new pattern. However, to fix a broken pattern, it could take up to 5,000 repetitions. it is important to realize that creating a new and helpful pattern may take time and consistent execution.

Get started by trying this simple 1 minute breathing exercise: