Eight Habits to Avoid While Sleeping!
1. Before you even get into bed, stretch!
Static stretching, or stretching in a fixed position is essential to flexibility and performance but if done at the wrong time, can kill a workout. The Myosin heads and the Actin-binding sites can be misaligned and less capable if stretched immediately before a workout, the worst time to stretch is right before a heavy lift or when peak athletic performance is needed. These times are best left to dynamic warm-ups and stretches! However, right before you hop into bed is an excellent time to stretch, as you sleep, your body is recovering and your muscles shrink and tighten, so help fight the process by loosening up before.
2. Keep your sheets loose!
I am personally a huge fan of heavy sheets that are tucked tightly into bed so this was a hard lesson for me to learn. The issue with sheets that are tucked too tightly is on your ankles and shins! If you have sheets that are too tightly tucked and your ankle is being pulled down throughout the night, (sleeping on your back) you are going to wake up with some serious shin and calf pain, TRUST ME! Make sure that before you fall asleep that there isn't any excessive pressure pulling at your ankles for the next 8 hours.
3. Use the right Pillow!
The next time you are in the store or looking to get yourself a new pillow, try not to pick the one that is too fluffy or too firm. A lot of overstuffed pillows cause excessive flexion on the back of the neck and can lead to what is known as Upper Cross Syndrome. Tight muscles on the anterior portion of the neck (front) and rounded shoulders can make pressing the weight up overhead, with good posture, extremely difficult. This can also lead to cervical disk issues or exacerbate already present problems throughout the night, so next time, spring for a pillow designed to cradle the neck and allows the muscles to relax.
4. Sleeping on your side with 1 hand under your head!
This can cause a lot of shoulder pain over time! Internal shoulder rotation is really difficult to reverse and the majority of those common lifts are excellent at strengthening our internal rotators; think chest press, flies, push-ups! More often, not enough time is spent balancing that with external rotator exercises which make over training those internal rotators even more damaging. Sleeping on one hand under your head puts that shoulder at an internally rotated position, for hours at a time, causing even more tightness in those muscles. Now if you absolutely have to sleep like that, you can but make sure that your arm is under your pillow not above. This will reduce the amount of internal rotation and keep your shoulder more correctly aligned throughout the night.
5. Sleeping on your stomach with your hands under your head
This is a similar to the problem before but now, its a 2 for 1 deal and you are causing issues to both shoulders at the same time! This is not only causing tightening of those same rotator muscles but also by having your trunk angled upward, your spine is now out of alignment as well. This can really increase pressure on your spinal column and disks but also your paraspinal is put in a position to really cause tightness, stiffness, and pain. If you absolutely have to sleep with your hands above your head, then do it laying on your back, this will have less damage to the shoulders and relieve pressure from those paraspinal muscles as well.
6. Fetal Position sleeping
If you sleep in the fetal position, which is one of the most commonly reported sleeping positions, you can cause a whole mess of issues. This position is often paired with sleeping with one arm under the head, which we mentioned earlier but also can affect your spine, hip-flexors, and core. If you are hugging your legs up in to your chest or near to it, you are causing shortening and tightening of the hip flexors, which paired with a more sedentary job can cause serious anterior pelvic tilt, and that leads to a book of issues in the gym that I am sure I will discuss in a later blog. For now, again, if you absolutely have to sleep in this position, make sure that you are not cradling your legs up into your chest and let your hip-flexors elongate and loosen while you are at rest! Make sure as well to put a pillow in between your legs so that the hip that is above the other isn't being unnecessarily stretched all night.
7. Being dehydrated!
This is an incredibly common mistake that should be easy to avoid. While you are sleeping, your body is trying to repair itself and a key part of that is proper hydration. If you are asleep for the full 8 hours, that is 8 hour that you are not taking in any water, think about doing that throughout your day. Obviously, you are not as active at night while sleeping as you are (or should be) throughout the day, but your body is still actively going through its processes and as always, proper hydration is critical! One positive habit that I have been trying to ingrain in my routine is drinking a glass (8-16oz) of water before falling asleep and then keeping a water bottle nearby and having another 8-16oz of water again when I wake up. Now, this does not replace my protein shake or supplements, this is in addition to and after all of that.
8. Power down!!!
This is probably the most obvious but overlooked the key to sleeping better and recovering stronger. I use my phone as an alarm and am guilty of occasionally staying up later than needed, researching or stumbling my way across the internet but there is a multitude of issues with using electronics before bed. It's too engaging. An incredible mix of chemistry is happening in your brain while you are winding down at the end of the night, preparing your body and your brain for the upcoming sleep, what disrupts those processes are engaging or exciting images/emotions from your phone. Not only is the content you are looking at disrupting your natural sleep cycle, but the blue light that is emitted from most electronic screens also impeding the sleep cycle. Instead of opening your favorite app, try some light reading or static stretching to wind down and relax and then turn off all the electronics, lights and unnecessary sounds and let your bodies natural processes take place! You will wake up feeling more well rested than usual and certainly have helped yourself increase recovery!