If you are reading this article there is a high likelihood that you have already taken a number of steps to develop your fitness physique. You probably place a high value on health, dedicate time to exercise, eat fairly clean and spend time educating yourself on how to improve your knowledge in all of these realms. Doing all of these things lay the foundation for building the perfect body; however, there are often elements that we fail to address when we think about reaching our highest fitness level. Arguably, one of the most salient elements is sleep!
Sleep, or lack there-of, translates into every aspect of our life, particularly that of health and fitness. The reality is that if you are not rested, nothing goes as planned. Your body simply lacks the ability to push to its limit physically. Regular and predictable sleep patterns are as important as what you eat or how and when you exercise, because good sleep lays the foundation for those items.
What’s more is that the nutritional choices we make are highly influenced by our sleep patterns. Dr. Michael Murray, who is regarded as a leading authority on natural medicine, sites studies to indicate that, “Sleep deprivation increases hunger and slows down metabolism, thereby promoting weight gain”. Increased levels of cortisol seem to be the catalyst for this, as that prompts increased appetite, a craving for sugar, and results in added pounds. Eating a well-balanced clean diet is much easier for the rested person as they are better able to manage cravings and make healthy choices.
Have you ever arrived at the gym and as hard as you try you don’t feel like you exercise to your full capacity? There are many reasons this might occur including stress, lack of nutrition, and physical injury. Sleep, however, is often a culprit in this challenge. Sleep can be attributed to our ability to push ourselves physically to achieve the results we desire. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is inherently linked with “how we exercise (and whether or not we lose weight), and how we function on a daily basis”. Being tired prevents us from exercising because we simply lack the energy to do so. In addition to having an adequate amount of sleep, it’s also important to focus on developing regular and predictable sleep patterns.
Lack of sleep affects mood and can prompt depression. Depression can be a barrier to exercise and thus; when we experience this we are less apt to move our body enough to get physically fit. If you have difficulty sleeping, it’s imperative that you put mechanisms into place that will help you develop the healthy sleep patterns required to meet your physical and mental fitness goals.
There are number of things you can do to help develop healthy sleep patterns. They include:
· Set a firm bed time and stick to it
· Shut off any media stimulation well before you go to sleep
· Invest in a quality pillow and mattress
· Sleep in a dark, quiet room
· Consider meditating before bed
· Take a short nap during the day to refresh yourself
· Avoid exercising right before bed in order to allow your body temperature time to drop
· Pay careful attention to the foods you consume in the evening and how the effect your sleep patterns
· Ensure you get an adequate amount of sunlight during the day
· Find ways to effectively handle stress in your life
Paying careful attention to sleep patterns can greatly enhance your ability to achieve your fitness goals. If you find yourself moving so quickly through the day and struggling to get to bed on time, or waking too early, take time to reevaluate your goals and priorities. There is only so much you can accomplish in the day and many fall victims to wanting to do it all. When you take the time to develop a healthy pattern of rest, you'll find you are more energetic, and your mood will likely be elevated, and you will have improved exercise patterns helping you to reach your full fitness potential.
Kimberly Miller is a Stylist, Writer, and Commercial & Fitness Talent. You can view her website at www.KimMillerStyle.com, read her blog at www.themodernme.wordpress.com, visit her AZ Republic Column at www.azcvoices.com or listen to her podcast at www.theproexposure.com