Sleep Yourself Fit: How to Sleep Better, Feel Better, Recover Faster


One of the most underrated aspects of health and fitness has to be sleep. 

We spend so much time focusing on food, nutrition, calories and muscle-building workouts that we forget about what happens after all that – sleep! 

In order to achieve optimal health and peak fitness we need restful, regenerative sleep that allows our bodies to recover from exercise. 

It is a wonderful cycle when we get it right. Sleep well – feel energised – give more to a workout – sleep better.  

Quality sleep allows our muscles to recover, cells to regenerate, lean muscle to build and helps prevent injuries. 

So many times, we’ve heard the importance of getting eight hours of good sleep a night. 

This all sounds so wonderful, but the reality is many of us do not actually know how to sleep well or what realise could be stopping us from getting our best rest on

It’s best not to get too caught up on the eight hours. Life is busy! The thing to focus on is making the most of the time we do have to sleep and to sleep well. 

So, read on for our top three tips for a better nights’ sleep

1. Fluids Before Bed 

There seems to be a myth that by enjoying a late-night wine or beer after dinner we will sleep faster and deeper. While it may be true that alcohol is a depressant that can cause drowsiness (as well as bad dancing!), overall it will actually cause a more restless sleep.

Drinking alcohol before bed can help us to fall asleep faster, but it affects the quality of our sleep by disrupting REM sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the phase of the sleep cycle our bodies enter first and lack of REM sleep, which can be caused by alcohol, has been linked to a number of health issues including weight gain. 

So, ditch the red and enjoy a glass of organic full cream milk that contains the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan

2. Sleep Position 

We are all unique in the way we move throughout the day and the same holds true at night with most of us opting for a specific sleep position we find most comfortable. 

Many experts say ‘back is best’ as sleeping on our backs (often with a pillow under the knees) helps to maintain the curve in the lower back. 

This may be true, but for some back-sleeping is simply not comfortable due to past injuries, sciatic issues or pregnancy. 

If sleeping on the side, choosing a pillow that allows for a straight spine and the natural forward-curve in the neck to be maintained during rest is essential.

By selecting a comfortable back or side lying sleep position on a firm mattress with a pillow under our heads (not shoulders), we are maintaining proper spinal alignment and reducing neck and back pain, pinched nerves, or shoulder issues. 

3. Exercise Every Day 

Expending energy during the day not only makes us feel great and get fit, but it also aids quality deep sleep. Engaging in vigorous exercise every day is one of the easiest ways to improve sleep quality, but it is important not to partake in really high-intensity workouts too close to bedtime. 

We’ve previously looked at when is the best time to workout, and when it comes to improving sleep quality, it’s important to touch on this again. Working out in the morning can give an added bonus here especially if it is outside as exposure to morning sunlight can help set our circadian rhythms – that 24-hour clock that sets our alert and asleep times. 

Don’t rule out an afternoon CrossFit class though, as the post-exercise drop in body temperature has also been shown to promote falling asleep faster. 

There has been a number of studies linking lack of exercise with chronic insomnia. It’s been shown that even enjoying a bout of moderate-intensity exercise like a walk around the block can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the length of sleep. 

By making the right exercise and sleeping choices, we can all feel better and get fitter! 

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