It was midnight and we were still going strong. Laughter and love filled the air, and the conversation flowed while we enjoyed the company. It wasn’t a conversation about personal goals or business plans, and we didn’t talk about future adventures. We were talking about the importance of sleep.
It was the Saturday night of The Fitness Summit, and Katie, Amanda, Shanna and I were talking about how goddamn good we feel when we get adaquate sleep. Ironically, we were staying up late to have that conversation.
During the week before The Fitness Summit, world renown coach Dan John took up residence as visiting faculty at MFF. His brother-in-law, Geoff, is one of our coaches, and Dan has an insatiable desire to coach. He gave the MFF team an impromptu in-service during his tenure, and touched on something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.
Sleep is the most underused recovery technique.
If your first thought is, “Harold, you don’t know my life, I can’t get more sleep,” well then I hope you have a nice day. If you’re thinking, “You know, I do realize that I feel physically and mentally better when I get enough sleep,” then I want you to continue reading.
Let’s start with something simple: We should probably get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Yes, my dear math-wiz, you are correct, that averages 8 hours. Some of us need more sleep, while some of us need less. It may be Paleo to get two distinct 4-hour sleep cycles, but let’s look at the big picture:
We don’t sleep enough.
While perusing the CDC website, I spotted an interesting statistic. In a self-reported study, 35.3% of adults reported <7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period. Wowee America, that’s not good!
The thing is, just going through sleep-related health statistics doesn’t mean that we get more sleep; it just means that we’re aware we’re not getting enough sleep. Awareness and actions are not the same; Just ask everyone buying cigarettes.
So, how do we get more sleep? Here are my three favorite tips.
Set an alarm.
No, not that kind of alarm. Not one for the morning. Set one for going to bed. I’d much prefer to wake up without a blaring alarm, so to ensure ~8 hours of sleep, I’ll make sure that I’m not staying up too late. Sometimes that means less time to catch up on Game of Thrones, and that’s okay. The extra sleep will feel better in the morning.
Kill the lights.
We’ve learned that blue light can negatively effect our sleep cycle, and apps like F.LUX that dim screens are becoming more popular. I run it on my computer, and it feels far more comfortable for my eyes. The orangish hue is easy to acclimate to, but what happens when you get up from the computer, grab your bright phone, and head home under florescent bulbs?
First, install a similar color-temperature app on your phone. That’s simple, especially when you know you do a last-minute e-mail check as you get into bed. Here’s an example of what my Twitter account looks like on mobile when I’m running an Android app called Twilight.
Wake the f*ck up.
Once you’re awake, actually be awake. Get your booty out of bed, drink a glass of water, and great the day with love in your heart. (Credit:BPM) Begin your day rather than lounging around in bed, fiddling with your alarm, rolling back over and checking your email. Get. Up.
When your body becomes accustomed to getting out of bed and beginning the day, it will also become used to getting into bed to end the day. Once you establish that cycle, your sleep will feel far smoother.
Tucking you in…
Remember, this isn’t a simple fix. This isn’t about catching up on your sleep deficit over the weekend. This is about setting habits that can support your goals in the short term as well as the long term.
Sleep could be one of the easiest things to add to your day; it literally requires doing nothing. The challenge is adjusting your day and creating habits that allow you to make the appropriate time for better sleep. Here are three great places to start. Let me know how it goes!