Sleep - that blissful activity at the end of the day that all adults look forward to (how I wish the same could be said for children!). But what if I told you that sleep was more than just a way to take time out after hours spent kid wrangling, working and running around like a crazy person? Yep! Apart from the obvious benefit of feeling “rested”, the quality of your sleep can affect you in more ways than you may think.
In fact, maintaining quality sleep means that you will...
- Be healthier overall - less common cold, more optimal wellness
- Find it easier to regulate your weight
- Lower your risk for health problems like diabetes and heart disease
- Reduce your stress levels (phew)
- Think more clearly and make better decisions
- Boost your mood
That’s not all though. Experts have found that sleep and exercise have a bidirectional relationship, meaning that the quality of one affects the quality of the other and vice versa. Indeed, it’s possibly my most loved health and fitness advice ever; get more shut-eye.
So how exactly does exercise affect sleep?
As we all well know, exercise has a multitude of benefits, but for most of us it also serves to seriously improve our sleep. It works to reduce our sleep onset (the time it takes for us to fall asleep), the time we spend lying awake during the night and how sleepy we feel during the day - for some people it even reduces their need for sleep medications.
And what about how sleep affects exercise?
Since our quality of sleep affects our overall health and wellbeing, it makes sense that it also affects our ability to effectively exercise. Better sleep leaves us feeling more motivated, better able to complete longer and stronger workouts and also make healthier food choices.
So, how do I improve my sleep?
I get it. It’s all very well and good to simply decide to get better sleep, but a whole other kettle of fish to actually achieve that - sigh, if only resolve alone was enough! If you struggle to catch those all-important Zs, here are a few tips that will help you get a better night’s sleep and boost your motivation to workout - aside from keeping up the exercise of course!
It is surprising how much more relaxed you feel before you sleep and in the morning when you wake up knowing that some of the hard work is already done - especially as a Mum! Laying out your outfit, packing your (or the kids’) lunch(es) and daily snacks the night before, and having a cold water bottle ready to go in the fridge are just a few things you can do to calm your mind and wake up feeling relaxed, not stressed out and with a thousand things on your “to-do” list by the time 7am hits.
Create an optimal sleep environment.
A bedroom that is cool (around 20 degrees), quiet and dark is key to a good night’s sleep. Ask yourself if it’s time to update your bedding and if your pillow suits your sleep style or is affecting any allergies you might have.
It’s time to take a leaf out of our own parenting books. Our brains - and bodies - are going at 100 miles an hour most of the time, so just as we encourage our kids to have some “quiet time” before bed, us adults should be taking some time to wind down too.
This can be done by…
- Have a pre-bed stretch or yoga routine; this releases all those muscles you’ve been tightening during the day through sitting down or standing for a long period of time and exercise.
- Sip on a herbal tea - chamomile, lavender or a special sleep blend is perfect!
- Indulge in an evening skincare routine - not only does it feel like you’re treating yourself daily, but having a pre-bed ritual also works to tell your body that it’s time to wind down.
- Listen to calm music - classical music is perfect for this, but anything that you enjoy will lift your mood and help you to quiet down.
- Dim the lights if you can - instead of overhead down lighting, switch over to the lamp or candles in the evening, or use the dim function if you have it.
- Take a bath - heat relaxes tense, tired muscles and helps you de-stress. Add bath salts or an oil for an extra sense of calm!
- Try not to check your phone or computer for emails - and just generally try to limit screen time in general!
- Read yourself a bedtime story. No, it’s not just for the kids! Reading is a great way to relax and take your mind off life’s day-to-day craziness.