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How to Optimize Sleep & Rest for Better Health

MAC Fitness Team - Monday, April 01, 2019


Joe McCormack's specialty is motivating his clients to work hard and focus on best efforts with every workout. He loves teaching safe and proper form on exercises, has experience working with clients of all ages, and will tailor each workout to an individual’s needs and ability levels.

Being the father of two boys under the age of 5, I have had my fair share of sleep deprived nights. For a while, I considered myself the captain of what I like to call “Team No Sleep.” It wasn’t long before I started to notice how much lack of sleep affected my quality of life in and outside of the gym. Recovering from training and everyday life tasks started getting harder and harder. I knew I had to optimize the quantity and quality of my sleep to do better in all aspects of my life.
Giving your muscles proper time to recover is imperative in order to hit strength, weight loss, and muscle building goals. In addition to time, variables such as nutrition and sleep also play a crucial role in recovery. So how can you optimize these?
Optimizing Sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults should get no less than 7 hours of sleep per night. If you're not getting at least 7 hours of sleep nightly, then you are missing out on the most important component of recovery and it can affect you in several ways. For example, lack of sleep can lead to reduced exercise performance affecting strength, endurance and speed as well as increase risk of injury due to its negative effects on proprioception. Additionally, not getting enough sleep can also lead to muscle loss and increase fat storage as it can raise cortisol levels. Sleep deprivation can also affect your immune system and lead to decreased immune function, making you more susceptible to catching viruses.
In order to optimize our sleep patterns, it is also important to develop a consistent night time ritual before bed. By doing so, we ensure we are not just sleeping, but getting quality sleep. When we sleep our muscles start to heal and repair themselves . During this process, muscles can shorten, so it is also important to have a nice stretching routine. Stretching before bed can not only help maintain ones flexibility, but also aid in relaxation hence allowing us a more restful night's sleep. If you're unsure where to start, MAC personal trainers are here to help you build a routine to meet your needs.
Sleep & Diet 
 Along with sleep, nutrition plays a very important role in recovery. One of the many benefits of maintaining a nutrient dense and balanced diet is its ability to aid in recovery after working out. Yes, many of us know to focus on lean proteins, to eat veggies, drink water etc., however, oftentimes we know a lot less than we think.
Do you know the amount of micro and macro nutrients you need from food to effectively reach your goals and optimize your results? More importantly, do you have an understanding of what micro and macro nutrients are, and how to implement them into your lifestyle? If you don’t, I suggest you reach out to one of our registered dietitians on staff to help you.
Now let's talk about drinking water. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommendations for water intake from food and beverage sources are 125-130 oz/day for men and 91-95oz/day for women. Typically they say 20% of your water intake should be coming from fruits and vegetables. Now those are general guidelines, which may not fit specifically to you, again that is where the registered dietitian can help. 
Getting your recommended intake of water is extremely important for many different factors and one of them, as you may have guessed, is recovery. A hydrated muscle has a better opportunity to heal and recover. I have had my fair share of struggles getting adequate water. If you were ever stranded in the desert miles from drinkable water, I used to be the guy you would want with you. We could be in 110 degree weather standing on the top of a sand dune with one 16 ounce bottle of water to share between the two of us. You would say: “Joe would you like a capful of water?”, and I would reply: “no thanks, Ill just wait until we find more”. I can’t tell you how many years in a row my New Years resolution was to drink more water. My solution? Remember those registered dietitians I mentioned before? They can help you with that too. Until then, start implementing the following two things to increase your water intake now that you have been motivated by this article. 1. Make sure you drink a glass of water in the morning to rehydrate your body 2. Try to drink a glass of water an hour before bed, that way you’re not making trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night and interrupting that much needed sleep.
Lastly, let’s discuss sleep position as this is also very important for muscle recovery. Depending on what position you sleep in, it can lead to muscle imbalances and compensations. Here are some tips to avoid those things and still allow you to sleep in your preferred position.
Optimizing Sleep Positions 
 Back Sleepers (ideal position is with arms by your sides)
-Try to stick with 1 pillow that isn’t oversized. Having a pillow that has your head too elevated creates flexion in the back of your neck. This can lead to what is called upper crossed syndrome where the shoulders start to round forward and the front of your neck becomes tight and may cause cervical spine issues.
-Make sure to loosen those sheets at the bottom of the bed. If the sheets are too tight, this puts the foot in a plantar flexed position and feeds into having tight calves. Limited calf flexibility can inhibit your ability to squat and put unnecessary stress on their knees and hips.
Side Sleepers
-If you have your bottom hand between your head and the pillow this puts a lot of stress on the internal rotators. Most of us spend a lot of time strengthen the internal rotators whether you know it or not, and not enough time strengthening the external rotators. If you put your bottom hand under your pillow, that will help relieve some stress on those internal rotators.
-Try not to sleep with your knees so high as this can feed into tight hip flexors. Placing a pillow between your knees can help keep the hips aligned.
Stomach Sleepers
-This position keeps the spine in extension and puts a lot of stress on the lower back. Do your best to lay on your side or back because this is the worst of the sleeping positions.
Feel free to reach out to our staff of trainers and dietitians to help you with any of these at any time.