Stephen Cabral, CPT/CSCS is the author of Fatlossity as well as founder and director of FitLife by StephenCabral.com. The Diet.com video contributor has been an active member of the fitness and personal training community for over 10 years. His passion has led him all over the country in pursuit of continuing to further his education, certifications, and health & fitness philosophies.

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Fit Life with Stephen Cabral

by Stephen Cabral, Fitness Professional

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Why is sleep so important?

10 Tips for Better SleepWithout sleep everything you do during your day becomes that much more difficult. Every decision you make is slower and more clouded, and every physical activity you perform is weaker and slightly off its mark.

Literally, all cognitive and physical activity depends upon a well rested mind and body.

The other side of depriving yourself of sleep is that when it comes to using your willpower to make the right nutritional, exercise, or healthy lifestyle choices, your decisions become less strong.

This means you're more likely to reach for the can of soda, the cookies, or any other sugary snack that will give you a quick "pick-me-up."

And of course if you're exhausted then you're going to be far less motivated to get in your workout.

So in order for you to function at your best, day in and day out, you need to be getting 8-9 hours of sleep.

Yes, I know that "some studies" have said that some people can function on less than that, but there's a huge difference between "functioning" and being at your peak mental and physical self.

As humans, we were meant to sleep when it's dark and work while it was light out (that just makes sense since we've only had electric light bulbs for the last 130 years).

However, due to electricity (and many other distractions like TV and computers) we've been going to bed later and later and missing our window to fall into deep reparative sleep (10:00pm-2:00am).

This means that even if you get 8 hours of sleep a night, but it isn't between the 10:00pm-2:00am window, you won't be releasing as much melatonin (powerful sleep and reparative hormone) that in turn helps promote deep, restful and regenerative sleep.

I won't put you to sleep with the science behind the different stages of sleep, brain wave activity, and release of growth hormone during your rest, but I did want to share with you 10 tips for better sleep:

1. Get in Bed by 10

10:30pm at the latest. This will allow you to maximize the restorative powers of sleep - especially if you have to be up at 6:00am or earlier.

2. Turn Off the Lights

Shut off all electronics that emit light 1 hour before bed. That means no TV or computer within 1 hour of going to bed. The reason is that bright light inhibits the release of melatonin, and flashing light (like your TV) has been shown to increase cortisol due to the fight or flight response. Try reading a light fiction based book instead.

3. Do Not Eat Close to Bedtime

Finish your dinner 2-3 hours before falling to sleep. This will promote sounder sleep since your body won't be using so much energy for digestion and it can focus on repair.

4. The 1 Food Exception

Dr. Johanna Budwig proved that a great anti-cancer recipe was to eat a mixture of cottage cheese and flax oil. This also just so happens to contain tryptophan, which in turn promotes serotonin release, which equals happy and restful sleep. So, if you're someone who typically wakes up hungry during the night or with low blood sugar, this snack before bed may just do the trick.

5. Turn Down the Heat

You should keep your bedroom below 69 degrees. Try setting the thermostat somewhere around 64-68 degrees depending on personal preference. A room that is too warm will keep you awake and wake you throughout the night.

6. Let Your Body Breathe

Make sure that your sheets and comforter come from a natural material so your body can breathe at night. Synthetic material can make you hot and not let your skin breathe, which in turn will wake you up.

7. Seriously... No Light Allowed!

Make sure you don't have any light seeping into your room - it should be pitch black. Again, light signals the body to stop producing melatonin (and to wake up) and if you're not producing enough melatonin you're not going to be sleeping well. Invest in black out shades or curtains if necessary.

8. Relax Before Bed

One of the best things you can do to unwind before bed to promote a healthy night's sleep is to stretch. Some light stretches for your back and legs will help to release any aches, pains, stiffness, and tension, which may also be keeping you up.

9. Make a To-Do List

I find many people suffer from anxiety induced insomnia where their mind is racing and they can't fall asleep because they're thinking of everything they have to do the next day. If this sounds like you, then I highly recommend making a to-do list before bed where you can get all your tasks off your mind and down on paper, so you won't have to worry about forgetting them when you're trying to sleep.

10. Follow a Sleep Schedule

This was the #1 thing I did to beat my sleep issues. Until I started going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday (within 30 minutes), I always had trouble falling asleep. My suggestion is to pick an 8-hour window that you can stick to and make that your own personal sleep schedule. It's amazing but after a few weeks you'll fall asleep within a few minutes of hitting the pillow and won't need an alarm clock to wake up.

As someone who suffered with sleep-based issues for many years I know what it's like not ...    Continue

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