4 Tips to Help You Sleep Better

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Sleep Awareness Week is March 14-20, 2021.
Sleep Awareness Week is March 14-20, 2021. (U.S. Army graphic)

Scientists have been studying sleep patterns for decades, so there is plenty of research on its importance in our daily lives. Sleep also affects performance during high-intensity training programs like military and law enforcement training.

The best training plans will not work if sleep and nutrition are neglected. Without adequate sleep (eight hours a night), there is not enough rest for muscle-cell growth and repair. When you sleep, growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis in the muscles occurs if you eat foods with protein during the day. For adolescents especially, sleep is critical as growth can be impaired when quality and quantity of sleep is lacking. 

Lack of sleep also can affect your mood and increase hormonal stress levels, which will have a negative impact on performance. Now, one night of missed sleep is not going to have many negative effects on your performance, but several days in a row or a few weeks of interrupted sleep can lead to symptoms similar to overtraining syndrome.

In the military and law enforcement professions, sleep may not occur at regular intervals, and the quality may be lacking. The following list can assist in getting a good night's sleep and help you achieve some of the many benefits that sleep produces:

1. Never oversleep.

You cannot catch up on lost sleep. Oversleeping (10 hours) can change the body's patterns and make it more difficult to fall asleep the following night.

2. Exercise or hard physical work

Those who work hard during the day or exercise will have an easier time falling asleep, compared to those who do not.

3. Your sleeping area should be calm.

Calming music, a cool climate with a humming fan or dehumidifier (seasonal) to drown out exterior noises will make the place you sleep more conducive to quality sleep. There are many sleep technology CDs on the market that have been proven to help.

4. Avoid active evenings.

If possible, do not exercise 2-3 hours before sleep or be highly active before sleeping. Relaxing a few hours before sleep works well for naturally preparing the body for quality sleep. Avoid watching television in bed.

Recovery and growth will take a backward step in your training program if you do not prioritize sleep, so get to sleep if you want to grow bigger, faster and stronger.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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