Many different aspects of life contribute to overall health and wellbeing and sleep is a vital contributor which is often overlooked. Sleep can affect cognitive function, mood, nutritional habits, energy levels and more. If you don’t get enough sleep then people often lack motivation and focus for day to day things including eating healthily and exercising. A large majority of the population feel they don’t get enough sleep and the optimum amount is different per person but on average it’s recommended to get 7-8 hours of full sleep. A lot of people struggle to sleep due to various reasons and as a result, are then prescribed sleeping tablets. The NHS spends £50 million on sleeping pills alone with 10 million prescriptions being made per year (NHS Business Services Authority 2010/2011; NHS, 2014).

According to the Sleep Council, we have different cycles of sleep which we will move through 5-6 times during a night’s sleep. When we first drift off we enter non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Then we move through the cycles from 1-2 where we are in a light state of sleep to NREM 3 where we would be sleeping deeper. We then reach REM 4 (rapid eye movement) and here we tend to dream. We would then move back up and down through these levels 5-6 times. They state that in order to feel rested when you wake up you need to experience all 4 stages.

rem sleep

For more information from the Sleep Council which contains great information click here.

As fitness instructors, we want to ensure our clients are sleeping well so they can exercise effectively without causing injury. There are a few tips to getting a good night’s sleep which we can recommend in our general advice. Remember, work within your qualification limits so if someone’s reasons for poor sleep are complex then they need to see their GP or other healthcare professional.

Here are some tips we can try and encourage so people feel more rested on a daily basis:

Avoid Stimulants

Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that people often consume before going to bed. Some people feel caffeine doesn’t affect them but it still likely to have an effect on your ability to reach a deeper level of sleep. People who smoke tend to smoke before going to bed too which will only increase the body’s activity. Stimulants counteract the relaxed state which we aim to achieve before going to bed so reduce the consumption of tea, coffee and cigarettes alongside alcohol at least 4 hours before sleeping.

Relax!

Take some time to relax before you go to bed! Allow your body and mind enough time to relax and switch off from the activities of the day. This can be achieved by listening to some music, reading a book, performing some relaxing exercises or just sitting down for a chat with the family.

Control Hunger

It’s best to get into a routine with meal times so that you don’t end up eating a heavier meal and going straight to bed as this is likely to cause disturbances. If you are hungry then it’s best to consume a light snack which is easier for the digestive system to process before you sleep.

Be Comfortable

The temperature of your room alongside other environmental factors can affect sleep patterns; therefore, ensure the room is not too hot or cold, noise levels are controlled where possible and a supportive mattress is available. Try to avoid using the bed for watching TV or working too.

Clear the Mind

If you have something on your mind which is troubling you then it is a good idea to write it down. Writing things down has been suggested as a good way to manage stress, anxiety and promote relaxation because the fear of forgetting it isn’t there. At the end of the day, write down everything you are currently thinking of and also write a list of ‘to-do’s’ for the next day so you can wake up ready to go again. Try to switch off knowing you can resume finding a solution in the morning.

Be Active & Healthy

Performing physical activity and exercise regularly improves circulation and helps to relieve stress and tension; it also expends energy making you more naturally tired. However, it is best to refrain from participating in intense exercise during the hours prior to sleeping. It is also important to eat a healthy balanced diet to ensure you are achieving the daily nutritional requirements including vitamins and minerals which are important throughout the body. Stay hydrated too!

These are just a few pieces of advice you can recommend to clients’ which may contribute to better sleep.

Sleep is a complex area as it involves the brain which is by far a part of the body that we still don’t fully understand. However, since we are people that client’s see more regularly then we can add these supportive bits of information into our role to help aid overall health and wellbeing.