Good sleep and proper recovery are as vital to your athletic performance as your training!
Growth hormone is naturally released by the body when we’re sleeping, which helps to repair our muscles after a hard workout. Skimping on the zzzzz’s can negatively impact your recovery by causing you to miss out on optimal growth hormone release. If you’re trying to lose weight, you could be eating the perfect diet and exercising the right way for your fitness level and goals, but if you’re sleep-deprived, hitting your weight loss target will be difficult. This is because sleep deprivation leads to insulin resistance.
Research has shown that the best hours for sleep are 10pm-6am.
If you can shift your sleep to align with these hours, the sleep will be more restful (even if you’re still getting 8 hours of shut-eye in a different time frame, such as 2am-10am).
Here are my top 3 tips for improving sleep:
- To improve sleep, one of the best things you can do is avoid the blue light of computers, TVs, iPads, and smartphones for at least an hour before going to bed. The blue light from these devices is the same blue light spectrum of the morning sky: it invokes the cortisol response to stimulate us and wake us up. In the morning, this is ok since our cortisol levels should be highest in the morning. But cortisol and melatonin, the sleep hormone, are counter-regulatory hormones, meaning that when one is high, the other must be low. If you’re playing on the iPad while snuggling under the covers before bed, the increased cortisol levels from the blue light will suppress melatonin, making it difficult to get a quality night of sleep. Even if you feel like you don’t have issues falling asleep or staying asleep despite screen time prior to bed, you may not be getting the most restful sleep as possible. If you’re waking up and not feeling rested, try turning off devices a little earlier and see if you notice a difference.
- Ensure that your bed room is as dark as possible. If there’s any light coming in from the outside – or if you’ve got lights glowing from various devices plugged in – that is enough to disrupt your body from getting optimal sleep. Your eyes are closed so you don’t see light, per se, but your skin has photo receptors that sense the light (even that little bit coming in through the slats of your blinds!) and can prevent you from getting the most restful sleep possible.
- Cut off the caffeine earlier. Many people think they have a “coffee cut-off” time of 4:00 PM or even later, and that it doesn’t impact their sleep. Just like I mentioned above with using electronic devices before bed… you may be able to fall asleep easily enough, but your sleep may not be restful. Try avoiding caffeine after 12 PM and see if you notice a difference in your sleep. If you’re dependent on the caffeine to get you through the afternoon, that could be a sign that your sleep isn’t restful enough. Try tapering the amount or drink green tea instead, which will give you a gentler boost.
Many people like to unwind at night with a cup of hot cocoa before bed, especially now that winter temperatures are here! You can upgrade your hot cocoa by warming milk on the stove in a sauce pan and stirring in some Cocoa Elite Unsweetened Cocoa powder to get a dose of flavanols to support the circulatory system and promote recovery.
Anne-Marie Alderson is the founder of Alderson Endurance and Wellness, LLC. She provides coaching services to runners, cyclists, and triathletes of all abilities and ages and she is an avid endurance athlete. In addition to endurance sports, Anne-Marie has a passion helping others to improve their health and well-being through nutrition and health coaching programs. She is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and has also completed the Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist certification.
We are happy to have her as a Cocoa Elite contributor!