Why You Should Make Better Sleep Part of Your Training Goals

Sleep. It’s as essential to our health as it is so often elusive. When making positive
lifestyle changes, we rarely prioritize optimizing our sleep habits. We set exercise
goals, target mile times, meal prep, foam roll, and so on, usually glossing over
improving our quality of z’s.

Perhaps it’s because most of us feel like if we address everything else — being active,
eating better — we should then start to sleep better. If not, there must be factors at
play that are beyond our control, right? Not quite.

Factors In Our Control

As it turns out, there are a number of things we can control that impact sleep quality,
including the makeup of the very beds we sleep in. Jordan Lay, a mechanical
engineer at Casper, recently discussed how our sheets, pillows, and mattresses can
have a big impact on how we sleep. “Even if the room is at the ‘perfect’ sleep
temperature,” he says, “there are significant fluctuations in relative humidity under
the covers; it’s often caused by dense bedding products that restrict proper airflow.”

This fluctuation in humidity and temperature then forces us to wake up, disrupting
our normal sleep cycle. “We’re developing an entire system that supports the body in
sleeping naturally cool,” says Lay. This system includes their recently released pillow,
which is designed to promote balanced airflow. “We’re seeing encouraging data on
how it impacts our rest.” For example, in a study published in The Tohoku Journal of
Experimental Medicine, scientists found that pillow shape and content play a crucial
role in cervical curve, pillow temperature, pillow comfort and promoting optimal
sleep quality.

Besides choosing the right bedding system, it’s also important to find the right room temperature for your body, which will likely fall between 60 and 67 degrees. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the best environment for sleep
encompasses all five senses and provides the following recommendations:

● Replace pillows every two years; replace your mattress after 8 or so years.
● Eat light before bed; avoid alcohol and caffeine.
● Certain scents such as lavender can decrease heart rate and blood pressure,
promoting relaxation.
● Wash linens and blankets weekly to reduce dust mites.
● Use white noise to mask intrusive sounds.
● Avoid blue light electronics before bed and allow for natural sunlight exposure
in the morning.

Why It Matters

In a nutshell, better sleep leads to both better workout performance and recovery.
Our bodies must adequately cycle through 4 stages of sleep, including light sleep,
onset, restorative, and REM, all of which play different roles in repairing the effects
of various daily stressors, including exercise.

These sleep cycles impact everything from our brain health to our muscles, bones,
and other internal systems. Inflammation is reduced, memory is improved, and your
performance will only reap the benefits. One Stanford University study found that
college football players who experienced better sleep quality and duration improved
their average sprint time, had less fatigue during the day, and had more stamina.

Check out the infographic below to learn more about what happens in the body
during each stage of sleep.Stages of sleep

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