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Time does not exist, clocks exist.

Updated: Dec 7, 2018

Yes, clocks measure time, but what if clocks didn’t exist? How long would you sleep? When would you go to bed? When would you wake up?


One part of fitness that I feel doesn’t get enough attention is recovery. Programming, MetCons, and accessory work get the bulk of the attention. I get it, they are flashy. They what separates CrossFit from everything else. They are what make individual gyms unique. They are part of what makes CrossFit work so well.


Nutrition is the other thing that makes CrossFit work so well. The CrossFit prescription for nutrition works regardless of activity. Nutrition is probably the biggest factor when determining body composition. And it is flashy too. “Here is what I ate today.” “Meal-prep Sunday!” and so on.


Even mobility gets more attention than recovery. Cool stretches, new mobility tools. As someone who is plagued with poor mobility, I have at least eight mobility tools in my apartment. I try to work on mobility two or three times a day.


All those things are part of the foundation of health and fitness. They all seem to overshadow the other part of the foundation. Recovery. Sleep!


As someone who has had disturbed sleep patterns most my adulty life (military, college, shift work), I value sleep. I know I don’t get enough. My current goal is to sleep more.


I have learned a few things about how to sleep more or better. Some of these are basic and some are just tricks, but I want to help people sleep better so they can recover better. Better recovery is essential to better performance and better health.


Setting

This is as basic as it gets and includes anything that is or affects the area in which you are sleeping. Ideally, it is dark, cool, dry, and quiet. The mattress and bedding are your personal preference. Of course, this isn’t always possible. Do what you can. Black out curtains, sleeping masks, isolated rooms, whatever helps.


Electronics

As electronics get smaller and more common, they disrupt sleep even more. Sure, that is true of fire and the light bulb, but portable electronics are different. They are bright and right in our face. They are portable and ever-present.


Working nights and sleeping days, I have found some great tricks to control electronics, specifically smart phones. Use the “do not disturb” feature! In settings, you can control who can get through DND in case of emergency. Also, sleep with an alarm clock or watch. If you wake up in the middle of the night, you will want to check the time. If you use your phone to check the time, you might see a missed text or call. You might see a new post or email. Whatever it is, if it didn’t break through that DND, it can wait. If you check the time on a clock or watch, you won’t see that notification or be tempted to use your phone.


I saw somewhere to avoid electronics an hour before bed. I don’t have a TV in my bed room. I am guilty of using my phone before bed, but I try to limit it. I also like reading in bed before I sleep, and I read a good, old-fashioned paper book.


Caffeine

It seems to me that is something people don’t even think about. They don’t sleep well, so they start their day with a coffee. By mid-day, they feel sluggish, and need a little pick-me-up. At the end of work or early evening, they end the day with a little warm drink or cool soda (gasp!). Maybe they sub an energy drink in there somewhere. Or a pre-workout. This starts a cycle. Caffeine is in a person’s system when they go to bed and disturb sleep. They wake up tired, and start they cycle all over again.


I get it and I use caffeine myself. Caffeine is a great supplement (within reason, there are safe limits) A quick search online will tell you caffeine is in your system for roughly six and a half hours. To be safe, avoid caffeine eight hours before you go to bed.


One thing I hear a lot, mostly because I tell people when it is late in the day for caffeine, is that “Caffeine doesn’t affect me. I could drink it right before bed and go right to sleep.” Even if that is true, which I question, how restful and restorative is their sleep? How often do they wake up during the night? How do they feel when they wake up in the morning?


I say try to cut back on caffeine. Use it only when you need it. Avoid it eight hours before bed and see how you feel in the morning.


Tossing and turning

I try to take a quick nap before work on my first night shift of the week. I have never been a napper, and it is hard to rest long enough to fall asleep. I am guilty of tossing and turning: Side, back, stomach, fidget, scratch an itch, check the time, repeat, repeat, repeat.


All that movement just makes the issue of not falling asleep even worst. I was listening to a podcast on meditation (Oh No Ross and Carrie) and they talked about not moving. Lay on your back, don’t move and just rest. Don’t scratch that itch. Don’t try to find a more comfortable position. Don’t move. Rest. Sleep. Boom. This is my new favorite trick to fall asleep when I am having trouble. It works.


There is an exception here. If you have to pee, get up and pee. A full bladder will wake you up or keep you from falling asleep. Keep a night light in the bathroom, don’t turn on any bright lights. Go pee and get back to bed.


Podcasts

I have been falling asleep to podcasts for several years now. I can’t sleep to music. The rhythm keeps me awake. I have tinnitus, so the ringing bugs me. A fan helps, but podcasts are the best. I have tried several over the years. The best I have found is Sleep with Me podcast.


The important thing is to find one that is boring. You want to hear it without listening. Let your mind wander.

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I hope this helps people recover and sleep better, especially shift workers or people who have trouble sleeping.


One great thing is that people who CrossFit probably sleep better (someone should study that if it hasn’t been done already). Unfortunately, we also need more sleep, and the sleep we get must be better quality sleep.


Recover better, perform better, live better.


Get some sleep.


-Bowen

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