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March 2011 Tip of the Month

Category: General
Maximizing Physical Training Results with Restorative Sleep

If you don't get sufficient restorative sleep, it doesn't matter if you are doing the perfect workout and the optimal nutritional plan you will not get the results you are looking for and in fact you could go backwards. For how to maximize your restorative sleep, Read More:

Getting optimal restorative sleep is not opinion based, nor does it happen by accident.  It happens when the body is in the correct hormonal state. With the right choices of behavior and timing, you can reliably and consistently create this correct hormonal state. We'll get to the "how to" of this in a moment.

Why is restorative sleep of such critical importance?  In a sentence, it is the foundation of improved productivity of every type known to mankind... on the day after you have that type of a nights sleep. When it comes to maximizing the results of your wellness behaviors, optimized restorative sleep allows your body and mind the benefit of undergoing maximal renovation and repair. Because over the past 15 years, the average person nationwide has lost 1 ½ hours of sleep per night, it's pretty easy to see that achieving maximal restorative sleep is one of the keys to economic recovery on a family level as well as on a national level.

The "how to" of creating optimal restorative sleep:  It's as simple as being asleep by 10:00 PM preceded by engaging in an appropriate wind-down routine. Though this is simple, it's not necessarily easy, so like every other wellness habit it's best to master one small portion of improvement at a time. For example, many people need to get into the habit of going to sleep earlier. Do it with easily achievable increments of 15 minutes. Even if takes you 3 months to master a 15 minute increment, during the course of a full year you are able to master adding a full hour per night. Your hormonal state is in unavoidable lockstep with circadian rhythm... the natural rhythm of physiological change due to the daily cycle of the sun. Ignoring this unavoidable current is tantamount to attempting to get your best swim times by swimming upstream. You cannot overcome this reality with will power or intellect.

Creating an appropriate wind-down routine. A good wind-down routine involves shifting your body's hormonal state from adrenalin and other "get it done" hormones to the hormones of renovation and repair. This can be produced by not having any overhead lights on; not looking at anything pixilated, for example TV, computer screens or iphones; and not working or driving before bed. Good substitutes would be: talking on the phone with a friend; pleasure reading; meditation/prayer; or journal writing. A great book with a lot more detail about creating good wind-down routines is "Power Sleep" by Dr. James Maas. Ideally, your wind-down routine should begin at sunset but this is unrealistic for most people in our society. Shoot for 1 ½ - 2 hours of wind-down with a "being asleep" time of 10:00 PM, and plan to be asleep until 6:00 AM.

The critical nature of timing and sleep. Though it does matter how many hours of sleep you get, please understand that human physiology is designed to receive optimal physical renovation and repair from approximately 10:00 PM through 2:00 AM and optimal psychogenic renovation and repair from 2:00 AM through 6:00 AM. This, as I've said above, cannot be overcome by force of will or smarts.

To Summarize: Getting the best restorative sleep involves having your body be in an appropriate chemical state as a result of a good wind-down followed by being asleep from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

In our experience with clients over the past 16 years, improving sleep habits has been one of the most difficult goals for clients to accomplish. Your sleep improvement project is a progress not perfection type of venture and as Harry Gray said "persistence alone is omnipotent".

Wellness... Works!