Wednesday, February 23, 2011

3-2-1-SLEEP!

By Crystal

Healthy Habits and Success in Sleeping
Cross-posted by Crystal Meadows from Against the Grain

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
- Aristotle

Proper habits are essential to success, in any venture.  Sometimes I think that unsuccessful people assume that those who achieve more are simply more fortunate or gifted.  In most cases, successful people are simply more consistent.  Set a goal, make a plan, follow through.  There may be setbacks along the way, but a successful person does not accept excuses - only results.

Health and fitness have been a tough journey for me, at times.  I was not raised with proper eating habits and have chosen to correct this as an adult.  It's an ongoing journey, for sure, but I'm definitely in the best shape of my life right now.  There are still improvements to be made, but I'm well on the way.  Creating healthy habits has been vital to the achievements I've made thus far.

This week I started a Paleo Challenge at Clear Lake Crossfit.  I love the way this challenge is set up by our coaches.  It is scored on a "points" system.  Points are earned for compliance, not weight loss.  What I love about this set-up is that the emphasis is on creating healthy habits.  Six weeks of focusing on Eating, Sleeping, and CrossFitting.  How can you go wrong?  Each day you start with 7 points:

1. Eat real food - meat (and eggs), vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds.
2. No dairy.
3. No grains.
4. No legumes.
5. No sweeteners of any kind, natural or artificial.
6. No processed foods.
7. No alcohol.

So, if I follow 1-6, but have a glass of wine with dinner, I earn 6 points for the day.  Bonus points are earned for completing a WOD at CLCF (maximum of 5 per week) and for sleeping 8 or more hours per night.

Eight hours or MORE?  Are they serious?

Everything else is pretty easy for me, especially with a points system to keep me on track.  I'm an INTJ, so I generally do well with charts and scores and those kinds of things.  However, I am really having to work at getting enough sleep.  Part of the problem is my own busy schedule and lifestyle.  I generally get home around 9 or 10 in the evening, then eat dinner, catch up on e-mails or bookkeeping, prepare my meals for the next day, and go to bed.  If the next day is a CrossFit day, I have to get up at 6:45.  That doesn't leave me a lot of time to unwind, and I have often found myself tossing and turning, regardless of my bedtime.

This week I have been working on some new habits.  It has severely restricted some of my online time, but I don't think that's a bad thing, overall.  After reading a lot about how artificial light affects our sleep, I have been trying the following things:
  • Turn off all electronic devices and bright lights an hour before bedtime.
  • Sleep in a pitch black room.
  • No electronic devices in the bedroom.
  • Establish a routine of bedtime and wake time.
  • Limit caffeine intake, particularly in the afternoon.
I've been doing this for four nights in a row now.  Sometimes the computer doesn't go off until half an hour before bedtime, but it goes off.  I have my bedroom as dark as I can get it (I even cover up my alarm clock), and I leave my BlackBerry charging in the dining room.  Every night that I have done this, I've fallen asleep almost immediately.  I sleep through the night and often wake right before my alarm goes off.  It's awesome.

The other positive benefit I'm seeing from this is that I've created more time to read.  In that time that the computer and t.v. are off, I sit by a lamp and read or write in my journal.  Journaling is also helpful to clear my mind for restful sleep.  It has often been a problem in the past that I would lie awake, my mind racing.  Writing all of that out before bedtime helps tremendously.  I also try to read something light and positive before bed.

I'm not sure how the sleep and wake times will carry over into the weekend.  An active social life is important to me, as a single woman, so I'll have to make some adjustments on the weekends.

How are your sleep habits? What tips do you have to share?

As for my points on the Paleo Challenge, I've had 100% compliance so far.  7 nutrition points, +1 for WOD, +1 for sleep (YEA!) every day this week.  Today is my rest day, so no bonus workout point, but I'll get 5 in this week for sure.

Healthy Habits are working.  Eat, Sleep, CrossFit!

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