Resolution: Get Better Sleep

Now is the time of year when everyone is thinking about their New Year’s resolutions. I don’t have a specific list written out, but I do have a bunch of things I’m thinking about. I have some behaviors that I am specifically trying to implement in 2015. To organize this I like to think about different buckets in my life, and I put my resolutions into each of them. Some buckets I have identified are self, family, heath, spirituality, and experiences.

One of the resolutions going in the “health” bucket is getting more sleep.

Let me begin by saying that I have always hated sleep. Hated it. The thought of going to bed and spending 7-9 hours doing ‘nothing’ used to be completely repelling to me. I would argue with people all the time about what a waste is was to sleep. Life is so short I didn’t want to voluntarily give up any of it to just lay around. 

What I’ve come to recognize, however, is that I was looking at it all wrong. I didn’t see how sleeping would actually enhance the rest of the hours I was awake. Plus, when I honestly took a look at things (and I kind of already intuitively knew this even though I didn’t want to admit it) I wasn’t using that extra time at night to do anything very productive. Essentially I was caught in a routine of staying up late to do nothing important, and then being tired sacrifice productivity the next day because of it. It was a losing battle.

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts, reading books and articles, and following blogs are focused on improving health and optimizing the performance of the human body. Over and over again I have run into the importance of sleep in losing weight and improving overall human functioning.

There is no denying the necessity of getting good, deep sleep for the optimization of human life.

One article I read was called, How to Use Sleep to Improve Fitness and Health. A couple points that jumped out at me were,
Insufficient sleep may be one of the most detrimental lifestyle choices people make every day. 
Just one night of shortened sleep can have a significant, negative effect on metabolism. A lack of sleep has been shown to decrease insulin sensitivity, increase cravings for carbohydrate–rich food and sugar, and significantly decrease mental and physical performance. 
Sleep quality is determined by the time spent in deep sleep and REM sleep. Deep sleep is the state that helps your body physically recover; the body releases its highest levels of growth hormone. Deep sleep typically takes place in the first third to half of the night. To maximize deep sleep, it seems that getting to bed well before midnight is helpful.
Another article on the same blog (Stress and Sleep Sabotage Your Health) stated,
While sleeping 8 hours is important, the time at which those eight hours take place is important as well. Ideally, bedtime should be between 9:00-10:00 pm. The first half of the night the body secretes hormones important for physical repair. The second half of the night supports cognitive health.

The production of the hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are directly affected by lack of sleep. 
Leptin is the hormone that tells you that you are no longer hungry. Ghrelin is the hormone that makes you feel hungry. With a lack of sleep, I’ve found some of my new clients are not only tired during the day, but the hormonal effects of the lack of sleep cause them to crave a lot of carbohydrate-based foods.
So, not only does lack of sleep leave me feeling groggy with slow mental functions, it also can leave me feeling hungry for all the foods that are not good for me. I understand this completely. When I am tired my guard is down and my willpower is dormant, meaning I am much more susceptible to making bad eating choices like grabbing a bag of chips or slugging a sugary drink - i.c. the allure of a bag of Doritos and a Rockstar energy drink.

For the last four months I've been working hard on many areas of fitness and improving my sleep will enable me to keep taking the steps forward that I want to take.

But wishing doesn't accomplish anything. So I am taking some concrete steps that will help me accomplish this goal.

These steps are a summation of recommendations I've read on numerous blogs and in multiple articles.
  1. Consistently be in bed by 10:00 pm every night, with the goal of being asleep by 10:30. Get my body into a sleeping routine.
  2. Reduce my exposure to bright lights 1 hours before bed, especially blue light from a television or computer screen. Blue light limits the production of melatonin, which is important for getting into deeper stages of sleep.
  3. Do not stare at a cell phone screen in bed
  4. Sleep in a room that is totally dark
  5. Avoid stimulants after 6PM (caffeine, sugar)
  6. Consume lots of water – dehydration stresses your physical body. Trying to drink 100 oz a day.
  7. Avoid high-intensity exercise right before bed.
  8. Sleep in a cool environment.