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I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: How to Hack Your Body for Optimal Sleep!

atlanta circadian rhythm columbus decatur dr. dominic recovery sleep Feb 01, 2024

Night owls, early birds, and those who have a love affair with their snooze button, let’s take a moment to talk about the true rockstar of our daily grind – sleep! While you snooze, your body is at work repairing tissues, bolstering your immune system, and fine-tuning your cognitive functions. For most, seven to nine hours is essential for maximal day-to-day functioning. However, 35% of American adults report sleeping less than seven hours per night. Here’s some of my favorite sleep hacks to turn your restless nights into an oasis of rejuvenation:


Set the Ambiance

Maintain a cold, dark sleep environment while layering on blankets that you can easily remove throughout the night. To fall and stay asleep, your body needs to drop one to three degrees in temperature. An elevated body temperature will cause you to wake up and stay up throughout the night. One way to assist your body in doing this is by taking a WARM shower 30-45 minutes before lying in bed. Although this may sound counterintuitive, upon exiting the shower your body will rapidly decrease its internal temperature below the normal 98.6 degrees and set the perfect environment for sleep!


What is “Circadian Rhythm?"

The infamous circadian rhythm is the body’s internal biological clock that regulates many processes, including the sleep and wake cycle. To maximize sleep potential, we need to train this clock to work in our favor. Maintaining a consistent routine is the key to hack your circadian rhythm. Mastering sleep is less about logging long hours in bed, and more about honoring the rhythm of your body and allowing it the rest that it deserves on a nightly basis. 


The Power of a Routine 

Try your best to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and set yourself up for success by not over-sleeping on the weekends! Sleeping in until 11am on a Sunday morning with hopes of falling sound asleep by 9pm that night goes against the internal clock. Once this happens, transitioning to a schedule of waking up early in the morning may take a few days to readjust. If you’re like me, you enjoy sleeping in on the weekends, but keeping this to a minimum will help you stay on track and feeling good Monday morning when that alarm buzzes. Having a goal to wake up at the same time each day and then go to sleep when you first start to feel tired is the best way to avoid this.


Sunny Side Up 

Light exposure is a powerful cue for regulating the circadian rhythm and getting 10-20 minutes of sun in the eyes when first waking up (depending on cloud coverage and brightness) will ensure that your body knows to start your clock each morning.  As a result, you will naturally secrete sleep-promoting hormones in the late afternoon when it is time to hit the hay. This is also why it is important to avoid viewing bright lights prior to bedtime and throughout the night. As a simple rule, only use as much light necessary to safely perform your bedtime routine at night. Blue light blocker glasses can help to minimize light reaching the eyes, but dimming the lights is the best plan of attack.


Say No to Bedbugs and Jitterbugs

Caffeine has a half-life of approximately 4 hours. This means that if you drink a cup of coffee at 4pm containing 100 mg of caffeine, 50 mg of caffeine will still be present in your bloodstream at 8pm, then 25 mg still present at 12am, etc. What does this mean for you? Limit caffeine and other stimulant consumption to the morning hours to best enjoy your cup of Joe without remorse!


Exercise Timing

Although there is much research on the positive effect exercise has on sleep, late night vigorous activity can disrupt sleep patterns. Rather than participating in intense weightlifting and high-octane running during the late evening, exercise modalities such as yoga and long slow endurance training may be a smarter option at this time of the day if sleep is a concern. 


Late Night Munchies

Indulging in a late-night snack might seem like a comforting way to cap off the day but it’s worth considering the impact. After eating a large meal, our digestive system kicks into high gear, working tirelessly to process those nutrients. This surge in activity can lead to discomfort, bloating, and even heartburn. If you’re like me and hate to go to bed on an empty stomache, refrain from high-sugar, spicy, greasy, or acidic foods which can rapidly spike your blood sugar and increase your chances of indigestion throughout the night.


Lights Out!

One night of poor sleep may not be detrimental to your health, but inconsistent sleep habits will wreak havoc on your wellbeing. Prioritize sleep hygiene to set the foundation for living a long, happy life!


Thanks for reading, and please reach out to your favorite Docs at Athletes’ Potential for any movement-related needs.


Doc Dom, PT, DPT, CSCS


PS - If you’re someone who’s looking to improve recovery from your training, or you’re dealing with any sort of pain/injury getting in the way of doing the things you love, click here to book a free 15-minute phone consultation with a member of our team to see how we can best help you on your path to recovery.


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