How Cold Dark Winter Days Help You Sleep

Alright so it’s the middle of winter. Well maybe not the exact middle but where we are in Kelowna the daylight hours are shorter and the mercury doesn’t climb as much as other times of the year. And so with these longer colder days you’ll see fewer people outside doing activity. And more people plopped down in front of the big screen watching awards shows, movies or sports. We’ve even found new conditions (S.A.D., isn’t it?) to justify the need to get away from somewhere warm in the middle of winter.
 

But I’m here to tell you there are some great advantages to have seasons like we do. Especially this winter season. And it all relates to your sleep.

How can these cold, dark days of winter be of benefit to anyone let alone to all of us? Well they provide the ideal conditions for sleep.

For example, the bedroom is generally cooler. It gets darker a lot earlier in the evening. And with less activity outside this usually means quieter times near bedtime.

So winter is a great time to establish some great sleep habits going forward. With that in mind here are 5 Benefits of Improved Sleep.

Benefit #1 – Better Memory & Learning

As a former high school teacher I often knew we’d have a great class when the students came in well rested. They’d pick up new concepts more readily and we’d accomplish more during the class. The same is true of training athletes in the summer. If we are going to introduce a new drill we might schedule it when the athletes are better rested and have a better chance of success. They’d land more of their plyos. They’d progress more quickly on their Olympic lifts. They would run cleaner patters on their speed drills. And not only would this decrease the potential for injury it would also boost their confidence as they master new drills.

Benefit #2 – Improved Hormone Profiles

Although there are many hormones influenced by our sleep status there are two in particular which should be of interest to the majority of gym goers. And these are leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin tells you that you’re full and ghrelin tells you you’re hungry.

But guess what happens when you’re sleep deprived?

Leptin gets suppressed and ghrelin gets amplified. In other words the message that says ‘I’m full’ doesn’t work. And the message that tells you it’s time to eat comes through before it normally should.

Get your sleep in order and track how much weight you can lose. One of the participants of our Year Long Training Program lost 11 lbs in the first 2 weeks when she improved the quality and quantity of her sleep. And this was before she started on the workouts or the adjusted her eating habits.

Benefit #3 – Enhanced Recovery

It’s such a waste to see great efforts that aren’t rewarded. For example, imagine putting in 4-5 high intensity, quality  training workouts per week. And fininshing each with a recovery shake. And eating the highest quality foods at the right times and in the correct amounts.

Now imagine going to bed at 11 pm and getting up at 6 am everyday. What’s wrong with that you may wonder? Well a couple of things. First we aren’t asleep as soon as we turn out the lights. It may take up to an hour to fall asleep. And so right off the bat we’re only getting a maximum of 6 hours per night. And this assumes we sleep the entire night which for most of our clients is the exception rather than the norm. Add to this to the fact we should be getting closer to 8 hours per night and we’re always 2 hours short per night. And for teenagers this need is probably closer to 9-10 hours of sleep per night.

Benefit #4 – Reduced Inflammation

I won’t go into as much detail here. Inflammation can be a good thing when it is the result of injury we have suffered. We roll an ankle and the inflammatory response helps provide more stiffness to the joint and helps prevent further damage.

But for many of us we are eating foods and making lifestyle choices that cause us to be in a state of inflammation, even when we haven’t rolled an ankle. Getting more sleep at night is a quick and easy way to reduce this.

Benefit #5 – Improved Mood

Think back to many of your best days and many of them followed a great night’s sleep? You wake up before your alarm. You had time to get ready in the morning. You weren’t rushed. You had time to eat breakfast and make a lunch.

And on the flip side what does your day look like when you don’t have a good night’s sleep? You’re hitting the snooze button a few too many times. Then you’re rushing to get out the door because you overslept. Since you didn’t eat breakfast you obviously didn’t have time to make a lunch. Your first meal of the day will be coffee and a doughnut in the lunchroom. And lunch will be fast food to save time.

It’s so much easier to follow up a good decision with another. And a great night’s sleep sets everything in motion. You’ll have more patience. You’ll smile more. You’ll see unexpected problems as challenges and your energy will motivate others.

Summary

During the cold dark days of winter see this as a great opportunity to get your sleep in order. It’s not easy to always train and eat as well as we should. But as soon as we’re well rested the other decisions are a little easier to make.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        okanaganpeakperformance.com

 

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