Published: 17 March. Written by: Vitality in collaboration with FIIT.
If you’re looking to improve your workout routine and also improve how well you’re sleeping, then the good news is that these two health aspects go hand in hand. We asked FIIT for some advice on how to sleep better and in turn smash those weekly workouts…
With World Sleep Day around the corner, we’re sure you’re also asking the big question – how can I get better sleep? Any personal trainer will tell you that in order to hit that personal best, having a good night’s sleep is one of the most important parts of your training.
This is because our bodies need rest and relaxation in order to repair, especially if we’re doing endurance training or exercises such as weightlifting – the same also applies to low-impact exercise, such as walking.
Studies have shown that athletic performance is increased when quality and quantity of sleep is prioritised. In fact, when this is compromised, athletes see a drop in their abilities alongside an increased risk of injury, quicker exhaustion and difficulty in decision making. But what does that mean for those of us who aren’t athletes?
Exactly the same. So, where should you start if you’re looking to get a better night’s sleep?
1. Sync your sleep
Every person has a 24hour ‘internal clock’ which is known as the circadian rhythm.
This is your natural sleep-wake cycle, and working your routine around it is an absolute game changer. By getting up and going to bed at the same time every day, it can create consistency which will help facilitate better sleep and in turn, your training.
Try to avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime as this can actually hinder how well you sleep. High intensity exercises such as HIIT, heavy weightlifting and swimming laps activates your sympathetic nervous system which releases adrenaline, and therefore keeps you awake. It also keeps your core temperature high for a longer period of time, and we sleep best when our bodies are cool. Instead, try light exercise which is focused on relaxing your body and mind. Here are four favourite classes to try on the FiiT app:
- Mindful Flow 1 with Richie Norton
- Suitable for beginners of yoga, this is a 25 minute flow, slowing the pace down to help you tune into your breathing rhythm and tempo
- Breathwork Unwind 1 with Richie Bostock
- Suitable for all levels, this 25 minute is led by Richie who is one of the world’s leading teachers in this revolutionary breathing technique
- Yin Yoga 1 with Cat Meffan
- Suitable for all levels, this 40 minute class starts with a short meditation followed by holding yoga positions for 2-4 minutes to practice stillness and patience
- Yin & Yang 1 with Chris MaGee
- Suitable for all levels, this 60 minute class will teach you to listen and connect with your body. Chris promotes yin yoga to help recover from sports injuries
2. Get enough hours of sleep
When it comes to sleep both quality and quantity are important. As adults, we need between 7 – 9 hours of good sleep every night to feel our best. If you are regularly getting less sleep than this, you accrue sleep ‘debt’ and over time, this can leave you feeling exhausted and without energy.
Dr. Roshane Mohidin, GP and Behaviour Change Specialist at Vitality says ‘Most of the adult population require around eight hours of quality sleep in order to perform at their best, and a lack of sleep can have a real impact on mood and concentration levels as well as leading to increased feelings of irritability or anxiety.’
For some of us, it’s not as easy as getting that much sleep at night with factors such as being unwell or even having a young baby having a huge impact on how much you’re sleeping and the quality of said sleep. If you struggle to hit the hay for 7 hours during the night, try having naps throughout the day where you can.
Some people suggest working backwards to figure out your routine and get enough hours each night. Need to wake up at 6am? Then your latest bedtime should be 11pm. This way you can look to get settled into bed 30 minutes before and start winding down.
3. Create a suitable sleep environment
To some extent, working from home has allowed many of us some precious extra hours of snooze in the morning. But the blurred lines between personal life and work has seen an impact on sleep, with research showing that at the height of the pandemic, over a third (37%) of people reported sleep disturbance.
This could be because for many of us, our bedrooms became our working office and caused our relaxation zone to become a place of stress. Your bedroom should be a suitable sleep environment, void of distractions that could unconsciously cause stress and in turn, disrupt sleep. Some ways to create a better sleep environment include:
- Invest in a blackout blind to sleep in total darkness
- Reduce noise in the room
- Keep the room cool, preferably between 16 – 18c
- Lavender is thought to help relax us through scent
- If you can, try out working in another location like a coffee shop for a change of scene
4. Digital detox
Phones, tablets, screens and laptops all emit something called a ‘blue-light’. This type of light suppresses our melatonin production, which is the natural hormone made in our pineal gland that helps us to get ready to shut off and sleep. Natural melatonin release is what kicks off our circadian rhythm, so being exposed to this light before bed can really impact our quality of sleep.
About 30 minutes before bed (longer if you can) try to avoid looking at any form of technology that emits a blue-light and instead opt for something like a gentle yoga session, some meditation or you could even try reading a few pages of a book.
5. Fit in regular daytime exercise
Remember when we said sleep and exercise go hand-in-hand? The truth is that throwing yourself into one of these without the other won’t leave you seeing the results you’re hoping for.
Exercise will look different for everyone depending on personal abilities and goals, and FiiT suggests incorporating various types of exercise into your routine. Cardio, weight training and conditioning are the three areas that will help to improve your overall fitness which will in turn help how well you’re sleeping. Here’s an example of how you could split your week:
- Monday: Cardio day – walking with a goal to hit 10,000 steps
- Tuesday: Weightlifting – lower body focus
- Wednesday: Conditioning – full body focus
- Thursday: Rest day
- Friday: Cardio – cycling in the morning or on lunch break
- Saturday: Weightlifting – upper body focus
- Sunday: Rest day
The takeaway from all this? By putting your energy into a consistent sleep and exercise routine, you will begin to see your quality of sleep improve and start to maximise your workout performance.