Usain Bolt says it’s the most important part of his training; Serena Williams looks forward to her 7pm appointment most nights. This isn’t a fitness fad. We’re talking about sleep. And personal trainer George Ryle reckons few of us are getting enough.
Is sleep really that important?
Absolutely, especially if you are training hard. Any form of exercise acts as a stressor on our bodies. How we cope with that stress is totally dependent on the quantity and quality of our sleep.
So no matter how fit or strong you are, if you’re not sleeping well you won’t be able to progress in your training?
That’s right. The only time our muscles can recover properly is when we are asleep. During that time we produce most of our growth hormone. As well as making our biceps bigger, growth hormone can promote fat loss, keep our organs running smoothly and ensure all the nutrients in our body are mobilised. Without this essential recovery time, we become demotivated and lose energy. Our appetite also increases if we are tired.
How many hours should we be sleeping a night?
It really varies from person to person, but roughly it is between six and eight hours a night. Women are thought to need more sleep. The old saying “an hour before midnight is worth two after” is true because your best quality sleep is obtained when your circadian rhythm is at its lowest point – usually between 10pm and 5am. That is why when you have a lie-in in the morning, to make up for a late night, you often don’t feel hugely rested.
“We all lead stressful, busy lives, however the biggest issue is our addiction to electronic devices.”
Why are we not sleeping enough?
We all lead stressful, busy lives, however the biggest issue is our addiction to electronic devices. The blue light that emanates from our phones and laptops is known to aggravate the brain. This disrupts our sleep. Often we are in bed for the right number of hours, but we’re not getting enough deep sleep and this can cause problems.
What can we do to get better quality shut eye?
I recommend an electronic blackout one to two hours before you go to bed. There must be no artificial light in the bedroom and temperatures should be kept low. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Invest in good quality blinds and curtains – the room needs to be completely dark. Going to bed at a consistent time each night has shown to increase sleep quality as well.
What if none of that works?
Try lying supine on the floor with your feet up against the wall. Shut your eyes and really focus on taking long, deep breaths – this will help your body shut down and prepare for sleep.