As someone who pushes herself hard at the gym, you know how important it is to help your muscles recover afterwards. But you might not know that the best way to do that is to get a great night of sleep. That’s because while you’re dreaming away, your body is cranking out muscle-repairing growth hormone (in fact, it releases more than 50 percent of its growth hormones while you sleep).
If hectic schedules and stress makes it feel impossible to get a solid seven to nine hours of slumber a night, there’s some good news: It doesn’t take a complete lifestyle overhaul to become a star sleeper. Little tweaks to your habits can instantly boost the quality of your shut-eye – helping you recover from today’s tabata workout while giving you the energy to go out and kill it in tomorrow’s boot camp. Below are six tips from the experts at EXOS that will have you sleeping soundly all night long.
1. Step away from the Screens
You might have a vague idea that it’s bad to look at electronics like your phone or tablet right before bed, but do you know why? It turns out back-lit screens emit blue-wave lights that disrupt your sleep patterns. It can be hard to force yourself to not check Facebook and Twitter one last time before closing your eyes, so try stashing your phone outside of your bedroom at night.
2. Skip the nightcap
Sure, you’ll probably fall asleep faster if you have a few glasses of wine with dinner, but booze can hurt the quality of your sleep. It stops you from getting into the deep sleep your body needs to feel rested and release those important growth hormones.
3. Lower the thermostat
One way your body lets your brain know that it’s time to sleep is by cooling down. And if your bedroom is too warm, your body can’t do that. On top of that, a warm core temperature signals to your body that it’s time to wake up in the morning, so a toasty environment can get you stirring way earlier than you want to. Ideally, keep the temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
4. Focus on your breathing
You’ve been going, going, going all day–you can’t go immediately from running around nonstop to sleeping. Balance out your nervous system with a steady breathing exercise. Here’s how: Inhale for four to six seconds, hold it for two to four seconds, and exhale for six to 10 seconds (make sure takes longer than each inhale). Repeat for three to 10 minutes.
5. Limit the light
If there are any lights shining near your bed – a night light, a bright street light outside the window, even a glowing alarm clock – your brain could assume it’s still daytime out (a.k.a. not the time to sleep). Make sure you set it straight by creating a super dark bedroom (hang up hotel-style blackout curtains if you need to).
6. Quiet a growling stomach
Feeling hungry thanks to an especially light or early dinner? Going to bed on an empty stomach might cause you to wake up earlier than you’d like in the morning. The smartest late-night snack combines fat and protein (skip the carbs here). Think a hard-boiled egg, some beef jerky, string cheese, or a spoonful of almond butter.