All about a good night’s rest

Whether in the gym or in public, I get asked a lot about tips for a good night’s rest. It is arguably the most common question I get related to health and fitness, besides losing body fat.

Before we get into how to sleep better, let us talk about expectations. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. Not everyone needs eight hours of sleep, it is not a magical number – some need more and many need a bit less. If you are mentally alert all day long operating at peak cognitive efficiency, then you got enough sleep.

However, if you are yawning, daydreaming, nodding off, or having trouble focusing, then you need more sleep. The older humans get, the harder it is to get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you are over 40, then it is probably not realistic to expect that you will be able to hit the pillow, sleep soundly all night, and wake up eight hours later.

Here is what you can do to sleep better, regardless of your age:

Stop all caffeine: No soft drinks. No coffee. No tea. No energy drink. No chocolate. Not even in the morning. Caffeine has a long life and even that morning cup of coffee can be a problem for some. Very commonly, what people experience is that they fall to sleep but wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. When they go to bed, they are so tired that they fall to sleep. Trouble is, when they wake up at 3am they are not nearly as tired, and the residual caffeine can easily make the difference between returning to slumber and tossing and turning.

Exercise every day: Getting tired is a great way to sleep better. In my opinion, cardio is better than weights, but weights are better than nothing. Finish your exercise before 6 pm. You need time to calm down.

Stop all supplements: Many supplements contain stimulants that can really mess with your sleep, even if they are not on the label. Virtually anything that is advertised for fat loss will cause sleep problems.

No big meals before bedtime:  A big, fatty meal right before bedtime is a real sleep killer. There are a lot of reasons to make your pre-sleep meal small, high protein, and low in calories – add sleeping better to that list.

Google “follow your breath”: I hesitate to call this meditation because of all the bad connotations. Many people can’t get to sleep because their minds are racing about what they didn’t do, what they need to do, and what they should have done. Following your breath is a simple way to clear your mind and get to sleep.

Avoid stress before bedtime: The last hours before bed, do something enjoyable, not something stressful. Before bedtime is a bad time to pay the bills or open mail. It is a bad time to discuss plans for a wedding. Watching films like Get Out right before bedtime may not be the best idea either. Newscasts should probably be avoided as well. Some people get all worked up about politics, if that’s you, then the last thing you need is to work yourself into a frenzy about who said/did what. You know what pushes your buttons, raises your blood pressure, and starts your heart racing – avoid it before bedtime.

Go to bed earlier: Depriving yourself of sleep so that you can get everything done is not the best time-management tool. If you are groggy and slower the next day, you will accomplish less. A much better idea is to organize your life and do the important things first, rather than the easy, fun things. Get job or school-related things out of the way before you settle down to watch TV and surf Facebook or Instagram.

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