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Stop Ignoring Your Sleep

There is a supplement out there-  VITAMIN S - that helps you lose weight, improves cognitive function, reduces stress, improves your mood, decreases cravings, improves recovery from exercise and prevents illness. It's one of the most studied supplements in history, with a huge batch of supportive data behind it. It's universally accepted as beneficial to the health of 100% of people. The best part is…. IT’S FREE.

man laying down to sleep at night

What is VITAMIN S? Well, its real name is SLEEP.

It is estimated that sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses north of $150 BILLION a year… imagine what it's costing you! If you're not paying attention to your sleep or sleep hygiene, it's possible you're messing with your own happiness and effectiveness as a human.

I often wonder this in relation to my classroom (I teach 7th grade). I often hear from students about how they stay up late, scrolling on their phones, gaming, and drinking caffeinated beverages later in the evening. One student shared with me yesterday that he tried his first Monster last night at 11 pm...

But it's not just the students I wonder about, it's the teachers. I have been able to immediately compare the effects greatly this school year, as the first half of the school year I was getting the best sleep of my life (my wife was pregnant, and we were going to bed at 8:30 because her body was DONE) and contrasting that with the most interrupted sleep of my life in the second half of the year (my son is a decent sleeper, but he loves to talk to me every night around 2-3 am for 30 minutes). I can tell you first hand, I have been a different person in these halves of the year. My patience is shorter, my energy is lower, I don't have the "pop" I normally do to give presentations throughout the day. I am someone who pays attention to his sleep patterns, sleep routine and hygiene, and I'm still struggling. I wonder if the rest of my colleagues are paying attention in the same ways, and even without newborn blessing at home, if they are getting good sleep at all. Obviously, poor sleep impacts the performance of those students who stay up late, but who knows the long-term effects having an under-slept teachers has on the future of the children they teach.

Aside from the mental aspects, when it comes to physical fitness, sleep needs to be made a priority for anyone who is trying to go through major health improvements. Here’s how you can improve it immediately: Create a routine. (One that doesn’t involve screens!) Plan it as carefully as your workouts and meals. As time goes on, the more you can consistently have a routine, your body will understand it’s time to let go of the day and fall into deep sleep faster.

My routine is simple:

1. Participate in putting my son to bed

2. Brush my teeth

3. Read something that is entertaining, but not stimulating

  • I have found my old comics do the trick. If I read business or strength training books, they can put me to sleep or inspire me and keep me up all night, so I try not to read them at night. I read them during the day and take notes instead.

4. ZZZ (at this point, this comes in minutes).

Sleep is so important, yet so many of us take it for granted because we think we aren’t “doing something.” It feels like resting can be a “waste of time”. Then we substitute stimulants (like caffeine) for sleep. I’m not excluding myself here. Especially during the basketball season, I often cut sleep WAY too short. Even in instances where I have spread myself thin and sleep time is limited, having a routine helps me maximize the time I give myself to sleep.

Sleep, like most things, benefits greatly from consistency. Part of establishing your routine is establishing the time in which it happens. Sleep can't be "made up" on the weekends or during the week. Missing critical sleep does throw your body for a loop, and can cause you to feel fatigued or mentally cloudy. Staying up late because it's the weekend or working late into the evening during the week causes a significant disruption to your body's circadian (sleep) rhythm, a disruption that can last several days.

There are a couple of avenues I most-commonly see people sabotage their own sleep. The first is with screens. More and more, people report scrolling their phone while laying in bed. Turns out, reading about all the world's problems, or seeing what all your peers are doing, while shoving bright lights in front of your eyes is not a good way to fall asleep!

The other ways I see have to do with the things people consume before bed. Usually, alcohol is a culprit here. Alcohol may help people fall asleep, but it ruins the sleep people get. Alcohol inhibits you from entering deeper stages of sleep, and leads to more groggy mornings, which leads to the next thing people consume too much off... caffeine! People underestimate the time caffeine takes to process in their body. Caffeine's half-life is somewhere between 5 and 9 hours, meaning that afternoon coffee pick-me-up may still be in your system (at over half its strength) when you are laying down to sleep!

On another note, the one I personally struggle with the most is just snacking before bed. For some, slamming a protein shake before bed is a great way to hit their protein numbers for the day, but most snacks we have at night are more likely to be sugary treats like ice cream, cereal, candies, etc. This sugar disrupts our sleep quite a bit. Personally, I've noticed that if I avoid food in the 2-3 hours before bed, I sleep much better. Breaking the nighttime snacking habit has proven to be a tough one, but I'm working on it!

Sleep is a critical component of your health that gets ignored because it's not as sexy as a new supplement, workout routine, or food to make. However, it is as essential to our performance as anything else, and needs to be paid attention to if you want to feel and perform your best. Stop ignoring your sleep! It might be the difference between you losing the fat you want gone, getting that promotion at work, or hitting big numbers in the gym. Getting more and better sleep means less car accidents, less injuries, and less time zoned out of your day to day life.

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