Boost Your Fitness By Focusing On Your Sleep

This winter, prioritize family, food, fitness, and sleep.

Chances are, you’ve already put significant effort into the first three. And if you’re already a member of Top Tier Columbia (or are considering joining us!), we’ll take a lot of stress out of the fitness part. Just show up to class on time, and we’ll guide you through the rest! It’s a great way to keep the extra winter pounds at bay.

However, winter is — perhaps unexpectedly — a time when many people suffer from their worst sleep of the year. Less daylight, combined with Daylight Savings time changes and shifting weather, can make it tougher to get to bed and wake on a consistent schedule. While winter is often hailed for its “great sleeping weather,” in many cases it turns out to be anything but that.

Sleep is incredibly important for athletic recovery. (For a primer on exactly why, we enjoyed this article covering some little-known intersections of sleep and recovery.) Poor sleep can halt fitness progress in its tracks — and that includes strength progress as well as conditioning. Less sleep = less time to recovery, poorer performance from one workout to the next, and slower overall progress toward your health and fitness goals (whatever they may be).

But there are some actionable steps we can take to prioritize and even improve sleep during the colder winter months. First, make it a priority in your schedule well ahead of bedtime. While this might not be a universal truth for everyone, it’s definitely something to try: Don’t exercise too close to bedtime.

Instead, consider taking a morning class in order to leave plenty of time for the body to relax before bed; some people have trouble falling asleep if they go to bed within three hours of intense exercise.

Winter is also a great time to prioritize “sleep hygiene,” or the behaviors and surroundings that impact your rest. Think of this as a winter compliment to spring cleaning!

For example, it might be time to consider darker curtains to block out light in your bedroom. Or take stock of your sleeping surface; how long has it been since you’ve replaced your mattress or worn-out boxspring? Two years? Eight? The right mattress can also help improve overall sleep quality, especially for athletes. Those aches and pains may have more to do with an inadequate sleeping surface than anything else.