Sleep is as essential to our health and wellness as breathing, hydrating and getting good nutrition are. In fact, when push comes to shove, your need for sleep overrides hunger. Getting adequate sleep is required for optimal cognitive and physical performance. The quality and length of sleep we get impacts every aspect of our lives. If you short yourself on sleep, you short circuit your athletic performance and so much more.
Aside from feeling and performing sub par, not getting the sleep we need can take a significant toll on our health. Chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with serious and life-threatening diseases, including high-blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Lack of sleep has also been associated with irritability, mood swings and impulsive behavior–a recipe for disastrous interpersonal relations.
According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, 40% of us are sleep-deprived. The consensus of Harvard researchers and the National Sleep Foundation is that 7 to 9 hours is ideal. Making sleep a priority will help regenerate, regulate and replenish your body. Sleep repairs and restores your muscles so you can reap the benefits of your workout and prepare you body to go to a whole new level.
By the way, naps are A-Ok as long as they don’t interfere with logging your 7 to 9 hours. In the book pictured above, Littlehales stipulates that we need to be mindful of our natural 90 minute sleep cycles that alternating between NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement – a deep sleep) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement – dreaming sleep). He maintains that we’ll feel better waking at the end of a full 90 minute cycle versus waking in the middle of cycle even though we may have added on another half hour or hour of sleep…There probably something to this, but I haven’t really experimented enough with my cycles and wake up times. (Admit didn’t want to give up the add on half or hour.) Let me know if you do and I’ll update this blog if I do.
7 Tips for Better Sleep
- Exercise in the morning, preferably in the sunlight.
- Eliminate alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed.
- Unplug all blue screens 30-90 minutes before bed (tv, phone, tablets, computer).
- Practice meditation to calm your mind and lull yourself to sleep. (The American Academy of Sleep Medicine Recommends it as an effective treatment for insomnia.)
- Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine / ritual. (Do some gentle stretching combined with deep breathing, listen to soothing music, meditate, soak in a bath-not too hot.)
- Try to stay on a consistent sleep schedule.
- Make your bedroom your sleep and intimacy sanctuary. (No work, tvs, phones or computers allowed.) Speaking of intimacy, orgasms are a natural sleep aid with many health benefits so there you go.
Sweet dreams and sleep well to fulfill your potential – athletic and otherwise.
Any sleep tricks up your pajama sleeve? Do share.
Being fit and healthy for life is to a large extent about exercising (pun intended) an active lifestyle. Having a healthy mindset to a large degree is also about being physical, being outdoors and being open to new experiences, people, ideas and places.
So my advice, plan your next vacation and make it count. It’s an investment in your health and well being that will pay dividends in both the short and long run. I know you’re so worn out from your daily grind that you might think you just want to sink into a hammock with a coconut drink and not move for 7 days, but hear me out. You can have your coconut drink and hammock time, but if you vaca my way, I guarantee you’ll enjoy them more.
Whether it’s a staycation, a camping trip, or an exotic locale – find your activity bliss (limitless options) – whatever makes you smile while you sweat just a little or a lot.
7 tips to “activate” your next getaway
- Say “yes” to opportunity. If an invitation to do something active and outside of your realm lands in your lap, take it. Adjust your schedule, do what you need to do, but as they say “Just do it.” It’s those serendipitous surprises in life that seem to yield the biggest rewards.
- Try an activity that’s outside of your comfort zone. (On a recent vaca, I immersed myself in yoga and meditation and it yielded some incredible results, as well as a new respect for both activities. I’m a convert – I’ll tell you why in an upcoming post .)
- Go somewhere new. Even if it’s just that park around the corner that you’ve never explored, go check it out.
- Get out of the country if you can. The dollar is strong right now so it’s probably less expensive than you think and it’s such an enriching experience.
- Book a trek, bike / multi-sport, dive, kayak, [fill in the blank] adventure vacation. There are so many great active adventure tour operators out there and they cater to people of all levels. No planning, just tons of active fun with like-minded people. (My adventures have included a 4 day trek to Machu Pichuu, and more recently, an amazing 3 day multi-sport and a 3 day mt. bike adventure in Northern Thailand. (See my pics,videos and posts on my adventure travel site: onthelooselive.com.)
- Do what you’ve always wanted to do. Take that tennis, golfing, dancing, diving, karate, fly fishing, or rock climbing class that you’ve always wanted to try. There’s no time like the present so stop putting the good stuff off. Try something new or get back to an old, but not forgotten pastime. With tons of inexpensive and free classes, your local community colleges and yes, even senior centers are great resources.
- Check out local activity meetups at your destination. You’ll meet new peeps and get the local scoop on bike routes, hiking, running trails, etc…
Longtail Boat Snorkel Trip, near Railay, Krabi in Thailand
The options are limitless! Tell me, where will you go next and what will you do?
Like this blog? Like active adventure travel? Check out onthelooselive.com for fun explorations near and far.
You’ve probably gotten the idea by now that I find being vigorously active outdoors exhilarating. And I count myself as fortunate to have friends who like to share in the fun. Yes, I said, “fun”. I understand that some people, perhaps the majority (certainly, the sedentary majority) think of exercise as punishment. And therein lies one of the greatest obstacles to being more physically active and improving our health. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens when we think of sugary / fat, high-calorie, low nutrition foods as “treats” or “rewards” and exercise as “punishment”.
I was in a retail store the other day and noticed a poster on the counter: “Donate to cure diabetes.” As I was paying for my purchase, the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate a $1 to cure diabetes. Really???!!! As a medical writer and health educator, I happen to know that when we talk about the diabetes crisis in our country and other developed countries, we are in fact talking about a self-inflicted condition, directly related to obesity and inactivity – type 2 diabetes. Our sedentary lifestyles and excessive consumption of junky, highly processed, high-calorie, low nutrition food are almost entirely to blame.
We all (all of us runners, anyway) know running is a great cure for pretty much everything that ails ya…Apparently, it’s a cure for homelessness too…. Here’s a quick video about Anne Mahlum, one inspirational runner who has made a difference with her unique running club, Back on My Feet. She uses running to help homeless men and women change the way they see themselves so they can make real changes in their lives. And it works. What can running do for you?
I’ve always believed in the transformational power of running, or any kind of exercise, especially those outdoor activities where you are immersed in nature, to cure whatever ails you…
In his book Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, Tom Corley compares the habits of the rich (those with incomes of 160k + a year with 3.2 million in assets) vs. the poor (those with an income of less than 30k and assets of less than 5k).
Or my take on it: moving your body can change your life.
In this Ted Talk video, social psychologist Amy Cuddy reveals research about how our body language shapes who we are. It’s well known that our body language affects how others see us and the conclusions they draw about us. It turns out that our body language also affects how we see and feel about ourselves. For instance, striking powerful, confident poses, even when we don’t feel confident can positively affect testosterone and cortisol levels―increasing actual confidence and decreasing stress.