Tips for Improved Sleep and Recovery

Sleep:

 

Here I’ll share with you some tips to improve sleep quality and regulate your circadian rhythm. For anyone unaware, our circadian rhythm is our body’s physiological clock that determines when we should sleep and wake up. Regulating our circadian rhythm is important to us as it serves as a modulator of regeneration and hormone secretion.

 

In a clinical setting, sufficient sleep falls between 8-9 hours. I know some of you may be reading this and you’re probably rolling your eyes, as your lifestyle may or may not accommodate 8-9 hours of sleep. At the very least, studies have shown that getting less than 6 hours of sleep increases your risk of metabolic syndrome. Here are some tips to improve your sleep quality:

 

1.     Carbs at night: Consuming carbohydrates at night are beneficial because of its effects on blood sugar and its ability to release melatonin. By consuming carbs at night we prevent blood sugar and insulin from dipping and cortisol from rising. Preventing this is optimal because when blood sugar dips too low while we sleep, cortisol (a stress hormone) is released and tells the body to release its own blood sugar, which can cause a disruption in sleep and in turn, increases fat.

2.     Magnesium: The one and only supplement that I recommend without a doubt is a good magnesium supplement. Magnesium functions as a natural muscle relaxant that works on the central nervous system. Magnesium supplementation also relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive system, which promotes regular bowel movements. Deficient individuals may get a calming effect when they supplement with magnesium.

3.     Electronic detox: The electronic detox is pretty much what it sounds like. I’ll always recommend that we limit as much blue light that emits from computer screens before bed as much as possible. The reason for this? It’s because blue light signals the brain to down regulate melatonin production. You’ve most likely heard of melatonin as being the body’s sleep hormone. When we mess with melatonin, we disrupt our circadian rhythm (biological clock). When blue light hits our eyes, it tells the body to wake up which leads to disrupted sleep cycles. Traditionally we are exposed to less light as the sun goes down. Of course, with the emergence of smartphones, laptops and iPads we’re constantly exposing ourselves to artificial light.

4.     Blue Blocking Glasses: This may be extreme to some but if your job requires you to spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, then our next best thing is to limit blue light by enlisting the help of tools such as blue blocking glasses. As I’ve mentioned in my last point, our bodies should be in line with when the sun rises and when the sun goes down. Investing in a pair of blue blocking glasses may be a small hack to get our bodies to wind down as the evening approaches.

5.     Cool/Clean Room: The idea of cleaning your room is more of a lifestyle hack. The premise is that if you clear your surrounding environment, then you’ll also clear your mind. Most people who have trouble getting to sleep have things running through their mind and never give themselves a chance to relax. Clear your room and clear your mind!

 

Recovery:

 

1. Massage Therapy: Massage therapy has positive effects on pain management, immune function and overall mood. A preliminary study done at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles took blood samples before and after massage therapy and found that 45 minutes of massage therapy had a positive effect on reducing inflammatory markers leading them to believe that immune function was enhanced by the massage. Soft tissue work promotes circulation, which improves overall recovery time by circulating nutrients to the worked muscles. I recommend going as a preventative and recovery measure and not simply going when injured.

 

Here’s how I do it: Frequency is up to you (and your insurance coverage). The one thing I make sure of is that I go after I’ve worked out and never before I’m about to do something active. Massage therapy can put you in an extremely relaxed state and may inhibit your coordination and reaction speed. My recommendation is to do it on a rest day.

 

2. Epsom Salt Bath: Remember all the wonderful benefits of magnesium I talked about earlier in the supplementation section? Well, you can also increase your magnesium intake by taking a warm bath in Epsom salt. Epsom salt is basically sulphate and magnesium. Take all the added benefits of magnesium such as restoring electrolyte balance, calming the nervous system and increasing sleep quality and add the benefits of hot water on joint health and you have your reason to soak in Epsom salts. You can find Epsom salts at most pharmacies or grocery stores. Please note that while it is called Epsom salt, it is nowhere close to regular table salt (so don’t try to bio-hack anything here).

 

Here’s how I do it: Add 2-3 cups of Epsom Salt into a warm bath. Have a large glass of water nearby and relax for 15 minutes or until you start to feel dizzy. You can go in and out when you start to feel overheated.

 

3. Contrast Showers: Contrast showers have been something I’ve utilized from time to time after my workouts. The premise is that going from hot to cold causes increased blood flow to the tissues. This allows the body to recover faster by increasing circulation and oxygenated blood to the whole body. Hot water vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) while cold water causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels). This causes a pumping action of the blood vessels.

 

Here’s how I do it: I’ll usually shower first and foremost with soap and get the shampooing and washing out of the way. Once that’s out of the way I’ll turn the water to an extremely cold temperature for 1 minute, then switch it back to hot water for another minute making sure to target areas of the body with blood flow. Ill do this about 5 – 8 times.

 

4. Infrared Sauna: Studies have shown numerous benefits to sauna use as a therapeutic tool. Most studies have supported cardiovascular benefits when it comes to individuals with hypertension but did you know that it also has beneficial effects on strength and performance? A Finnish study was conducted at the University of Jyvaskyla found that when infrared heat enters 3-4 cm into fat tissue; it has a positive effect on recovery from maximal endurance performance. Although more research is needed to prove this, infrared saunas have a positive effect on detoxifying the body as well.

 

 

Studies:

 

Infrared on performance:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4493260/

 

Massage Therapy and its positive effect on Immune system:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20809811