Is there really ONE big thing you can do to make a positive impact on your workouts? Truthfully there are many, and you may be surprised by this recommendation.
As basic as it sounds, if you were to pick one priority thing to change, and could probably implement fairly easily, it would be your SLEEP.
How powerful is getting enough sleep? Getting enough sleep can reduce Type II diabetes by as much as 80%. Your ability to properly accumulate rest, could make the difference between your healthy longevity versus having a cardiac event or developing Alzheimer’s. Sleep has been known to be a factor linked with autoimmune disorders as well.
Along with making your workouts being more efficient, there are massive health benefits to getting your sleep time in. And what does Pilates have to do with sleep? Many of our clients have found that once they began a regular Pilates routine, they fall asleep faster, sleep deeper and wake feeling more refreshed! There’s a little bit of a ‘secret’ to that, but more on that in a minute.
Maybe you’ve heard that according to National Institutes of Health, adults are getting an average of less than 7 hours of sleep nightly, whereas a solid 8-9 are recommended. Recently, I was reminded of the importance of reviewing my own sleep program while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Move Your DNA with biomechanist Katy Bowman.
Katy interviewed author Shawn Stevenson who wrote the book, “Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies.” I’m going to sum up my thoughts on the episode, but I encourage you to download and listen to this podcast for yourself! (This is not a sponsored ad and I am not receiving anything for mentioning her podcast – I’m just a huge fan).
The next time you’re cleaning house, catching a quick Pilates Ab series on your mat, power-walking, or any way you love moving your body, hit “play” you’ll get a healthful inspirational dose of Move Your DNA in your earbuds. [link for the podcast episode below]
I want to touch briefly on the points Shawn makes with Katy, and ponder out loud the amazing resource our own body can be in the most favorable setting. In the podcast he covers 3 tips:
- Get outside and get a daily or regular doses of natural sunlight directly on your skin.
- Make sure your sleep environment is dark, and not disrupted by “light pollution” that can mess with your sleep cycle.
- Keep your bedroom at a cooler temperature during sleep.
Okay – here we go with some quick chemistry…
When your body is exposed directly to sunlight, it kicks up production of serotonin. It’s a necessary building block to produce melatonin – the hormone responsible for signaling your body for sleep at bedtime. So just like having breakfast – you gotta get that dose of serotonin, for multiple reasons, but here we’ll focus on the fact that it’s nutrition for your sleep.
Shawn says that the sunlight exposure also increases your cortisol levels, effectively giving you a re-set of the rhythm in your body. This makes sense, because at sunrise, we are all gearing up for our day.
Darkness for your sleep haven.
But there’s a balance, right? At the end of the day, ideally your cortisol levels decrease. Have you ever felt too wired at bedtime? You may have an excess of cortisol hanging out in your system. That cortisol interferes and can block your production of melatonin.
Allowing yourself time to get into the mode with all artificial lights and devices off, helps you cultivate the internal environment for your melatonin ‘harvest’ (okay I couldn’t resist – it’s autumn after all).
Your body naturally drops in temperature as part of what I’ll refer to as a “shut down” sequence making ready to repair and restore.
Then enzymes and other hormones get going like little health aide elves in the night working to regulate the flow of your systems. Hey, those little elves are trying to take care of you, if you give them the time and attention!
So speaking of systematic flow, the ‘secret’ that Pilates offers in this chemistry mix happens when you’re awake – definitely somewhere between the Natural sunlight and Darkness phases in the program.
After an invigorating session with your Pilates buddies, you get that feel-good high afterwards – that’s your body releasing endorphins. Endorphins are considered the “happiness hormone” They alleviate anxiety and bring forth feelings of positivity.
Endorphins, if you will, can be considered an integrative partner to their buddies above, cortisol, serotonin, and melatonin. Together, the right balance of this chemistry in your internal environment plays a major role in proper immune function.
To wrap up: Does your restorative time need a revamp? How can you implement any of Shawn’s tips – or if you do these things already, what could you tweak to make it even better?
Get your best rest for your best self. Then come in for your revitalizing Pilates session.
We’ll be ready for you with those endorphins! See you in the studio!
Katy Bowman’s Move Your DNA Podcast interview with Shawn Stevenson: https://www.nutritiousmovement.com/sleep-action-with-shawn-stevenson-podcast-episode-110/