Some excellent advice from our friends at the American Council on Exercise
Health Consequences of Poor Sleep
Science already tells us that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. When the body is well rested, the body performs optimally. On the flip side, when the body is poorly rested, performance plummets.
In short, sleep plays a crucial role in the repair and maintenance of all systems (physical and psychological) of the human body. Unfortunately, a significant number of Americans do not get the amount of sleep necessary to support a healthy body and mind.
What Happens During Sleep
A state of sleep may seem, on the surface, to be a quiet and tranquil experience. But your body is working hard to repair, recover, build, strengthen, grow and defend. It’s during sleep that the “real” work of progress begins and ends. Sleep is a productive process even if you aren’t moving or interacting.
Downward Spiral to Poor Health
When the body is sleep deprived, the brain craves food (and usually not the healthiest varieties). The hormones responsible for regulating hunger and satiety become unbalanced. Consequently, caloric intake increases and caloric expenditure decreases due to lack of motivation from mental and physical fatigue. This eventually leads to weight gain.
Further, poor sleep results in higher-than-normal blood-sugar levels because a tired body is unable to effectively respond to insulin
How to Improve Sleep Fitness
Everyone requires a slightly different environment to sleep well. However, there are some key ingredients to improving the “sleepability” of your space. When it comes to your environment consider taking the following actions:
Remove (or turn off) all electronics and cover the alarm clock an hour before bed. The circadian rhythm is most sensitive to blue light (the type emitted from electronics).
Make the room as dark as possible.
Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature.
Evaluate the noise level or add a white noise machine or fan.
There are also several behavioral tricks you can employ to improve sleep:
Develop a routine: If you don’t have a bedtime routine, establish one for you and your family. Incorporate relaxing activities (meditate, read a book, listen to calming music, etc.).
Activity naturally promotes better sleep. Try to avoid working out too late in the evening as it can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Reduce caffeine intake. Try waiting to enjoy that first jolt of java until 9 a.m. Having caffeine before that time frame can disrupt the body’s normal cortisol rhythm and disrupt sleep later on. Further, caffeine also antagonizes adenosine (another ingredient to promote restful sleep).
Limit alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant that has sedative-like effects; however, it also causes an individual to wake frequently during the night. Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages before bed or late in the evening.
Finally, communicate openly with your doctor if you feel sleep deprivation is chronic and interfering with your life (personally and professionally).