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15 Ways to Sleep Better, and Wake up Refreshed

15 Ways to Sleep Better, and Wake up Refreshed

We are all plagued with the modern man’s disease—insomnia.

From a combination of bad diet, lack of exercise, staring at electronic back-lit screens for hours, we have thrown our circadian rhythm clocks completely out of whack. In the last year I have been digging deep into the world of healthy habits, and have found a wealth of information from sources such as BulletProof and Fat-Burning Man. These alternative health advocates use cutting edge technology and science to help you hack your health.

And thankfully, in order to sleep well, it doesn’t really take all that much effort. Make these simple tweaks to your daily routine with these 15 ways to sleep better, so you wake up refreshed.

1. Cut back on sugary beverages.

Ah, the sugar problem. I could go on for days about how fructose corn syrups, low fat foods and soda have destroyed American health. But, in regards to sleeping better, cutting out the sugar will do wonders for your sleeping. If you consume more than 3 sodas a day (or say, 2 Starbucks Grande Lattes), try to cut that amount in half, and stop your sugar consumption after 5 p.m. This will allow for your body to detox and metabolize (or store) all those simple carbohydrates. An insulin spike right before bed is counterproductive to a good night’s rest.

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2. Cut back on the caffeine.

Just as sugar amps up your insulin levels, caffeine can up your adrenaline. If you are a heavy coffee drinker you should also cut back on the Joe, and attempt to not drink any after 5 p.m.

3. Do morning cardio.

How does exercising in the morning contribute to sleeping better? For starters, you need to develop a solid morning routine, which directly effects your evening rituals. Early morning cardio gives you a reason to get out of bed, and keeps you from hitting that snooze button, which will help you to get to bed easier the next night. Aim for 30 mins, whether its a jog on the treadmill, a walk with the dog, or a Jazzercise routine.

4. Have some fruit.

A small amount of carbohydrates before bed time will help your body to produce melatonin. Reach for a handful of grapes, an orange, or any small amount of fresh fruit to help you into La-La Land.

5. Take a melatonin supplement.

If your internal clock needs a hard reset, starting with a melatonin supplement could work wonders. Take these supplements (there is varying advice on the dosage) an hour before you plan to fall asleep. This will give you time to unwind, get on your pjs and fall asleep before you know it.

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6. Drink herbal tea.

No Sugar. No caffeine. Yes to herbal tea!

Herbals teas are a great way to unwind and relax at the end of the day. Peppermint and chamomile are some of my favorites. If you are new to tea, here is a lovely guide on how to get started.

7. Read more.

If diet and exercise contribute to sleep, so does a quiet mind. Take that cup of herbal tea and sit down with some light reading to relax your mind.

8. Start a journal.

For the supercharged and on the go person, reading at night seems impossible. Instead, I like to sit at my desk and make a list, or a short journal of all the things I accomplished that day, and then to make a small list of things I plan to do tomorrow. This allows me to worry less about remembering things, and to concentrate on unwinding.

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9. Lift weights.

If cardio is a good morning routine, lifting weights in the evening is a perfect bedtime routine. After dinner, spend sometime weight training. If you don’t have a weight set, do some Crossfit style exercises or even just a few sets of sit up and push ups. Firing up your muscles burns that lingering sugar in your bloodstream, and will help you to nod off a little easier.

10. No electronics in bed, ever.

And another topic I could go on about forever about is how smartphone and tablets have destroyed sleeping habits. I set my phone for “night mode”, meaning at precisely 11pm my phone goes silent until 6am. This has staved off the workaholic and insomnia more than any other tip I have tried.

11.  Have more sex.

The bedroom should be a sacred place—this is where you (and possibly a partner) partake in intimate activities. Orgasms are a great stress reliever and (or even something as mundane as snuggling!) release the hormone oxytocin  and sertonin, both of which help you to feel relaxed and drowsy. Take complete advantage of your partner (or porn) and jump in the sack early.

12. Never hit the snooze.

Hitting the snooze button is a way to perpetuate a bad sleeping cycle. You go to bed late because you know you will be hitting the snooze button at least 5 times. Instead force yourself to get up on the first buzzer and you WILL be exhausted. This will eventually lead to you going to bed earlier.

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13. Eat real butter for breakfast.

My boyfriend has struggled with insomnia for years. One of the best ways I have found to get him into a better sleeping pattern is that the last thing I say to him before I go to sleep, “I’m going to make you a big bacon and cheese omelet in the morning.” On those days, he is up and at ’em before me! Not only is this a great motivator to go to bed, it is a great motivator to get out of bed. And the the dose of protein and fat helps to get your brain moving quicker than a carbohydrate dense breakfast. I opt for Bulletproof coffee.

14. Drink more water.

Logical, right? Not so much. As my first few points said, we Americans like to indulge in sugar and caffeine (I know far too many people that down a Mountain Dew before bed). If you aren’t a tea drinker, than get a tall glass of ice water, or better yet, infused water, and sip on it before you head to bed. This will  help your body to detox when you sleep, to rehydrate your system and to aid digestion.

15. Switch out your lights.

Even if you swear off the TV and tablet before bed, you still need to navigate around your bedroom and home. A great way to lessen your evening light exposure is to opt for red spectrum bulbs. These simulate (you guessed it!) an evening sunset and help to sync your internal clock for sun down.

Featured photo credit: Stunt of the Litter via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

Video Summary

Why is it important to train up our core strength?

There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

One Exercise, multiple benefits

There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

What will happen when you start doing planks every day

    1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

    Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

    • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
    • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
    • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
    • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

    2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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      Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

      Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

      3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

        Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

        4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

          Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

          A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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          A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

          On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

          5. You’ll improve overall balance

            Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

            6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

              Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

              7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                How to hold a plank position

                1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                  How to improve your plank time gradually

                  1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                  2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                  3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                  Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                  Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                  You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                  • Prolapse
                  • After prolapse surgery
                  • Pelvic pain conditions
                  • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                  • Previous childbirth
                  • Overweight

                  Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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