Why sleep is so important, and how to get more of it

What we experience and learn during the day is solidified when we sleep.

By Aaron Gilbert

Aaron Gilbert. Photo by William Lange
Aaron Gilbert. Photo by William Lange

If your nutrition and exercise are on point but you still don’t feel or look the way you want, poor sleep may be the culprit. Let’s get into how we can make rest a daily priority.

4 Signs Your Sleep Habits Aren’t Cutting it

1. Brain fog

What we experience and learn during the day is solidified when we sleep. Interference with this process causes:
•    Confusion
•    Reduced alertness and concentration
•    Impaired judgment
•    Forgetfulness

2. You are getting sick … a lot

When you don’t sleep enough, T-cells go down and inflammation goes up resulting in:
•    Increased vulnerability to viruses and bacteria
•    Increased risk of heart disease and other inflammatory illnesses

3. You are unhappy

While we sleep, hormone production is regulated. Interference here causes:
•    Emotional instability
•    Heightened stress
•    Worsened mood

4. You are struggling with your weight

Poor sleep is linked to excess body fat, as it can:
•    Disrupt appetite regulation
•    Cause you to feel hungrier
•    Lead to increased food consumption

7 Ways to Prepare for a Good Night’s Rest

As odd as it may seem, your path to great sleep starts first thing in the morning.

1. Rise at the right time

You will feel better and more alert if you wake from a light sleep stage. If you feel groggy, try using a device or app that senses sleep cycles and wakes you at the best time.

2. Get moving immediately

Movement can speed the waking process, whereas hitting the snooze button does the opposite. When it’s time to wake, sit up, put your feet on the floor, and get moving!

3. Be careful of alcohol and caffeine

Consuming caffeine after 2 p.m. and/or having more than 1-2 drinks in the evening can prevent deep sleep.

4. Exercise

Regular exercise helps normalize your body’s 24-hour clock, regulate your fight-or-flight system and optimize your hormone levels.

5. Eat a small to medium dinner

Too much food can make it harder to fall asleep. A blend of minimally processed proteins, fats, and slow-digesting carbs can keep you satisfied until morning and make you feel sleepy.

6. Clear your mind

Whatever thoughts are in your head, get them out and onto paper. This prepares for you for genuine relaxation.

7. Sleep at least seven hours

Most people need at least seven hours of sleep a night. Even adding 30 minutes can make a big difference.

More Tips for Better Sleep

Turn Off Electronics: Stay away from all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. Artificial light interferes with our production of melatonin, which insures deep sleep and helps regulate metabolism.

Unwind: Reading, meditation and gentle movement (stretching, yoga, walking) can release tension and activate relaxation chemicals.

Be Cool: Most people sleep better when it’s cool (around 67° F).

Darken Your Room: To maximize melatonin production, cover your windows and make sure your phone is face-down. Use a motion-sensitive or dim light to illuminate mid-sleep bathroom trips.

Aaron Gilbert, CSC, is the owner of Longevity Athletics.


This column appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.


Leave a Reply