“How did you sleep?”
How many times have you asked your client this question and received a groan in response?
How many times are you, yourself, able to answer this question with a positive and convincing answer?
Whether it’s inconsistent, not enough, or intermittent, a significant number of people in the United States do not receive the rejuvenating sleep that is needed each night. According to the American Sleep Association, 37% of young adults report insufficient sleep duration, and that percentage only increases to 40% for 40-59-year-olds.
There are incredible benefits from proper sleep hygiene and habits. Nick Lambe, a renowned sleep coach, states that only some of these research-based results include:
- Lengthening lifetime
- Enhancing memory
- Improving creativity
- Reducing food cravings
- Decreasing risk for cancer, dementia, heart attacks, stroke, and diabetes
- Boosting immune system
- Decreasing depression and anxiety
- Increasing happiness
As a knowledgeable coach, you may have noticed that some of the benefits of proper sleep look familiar. Several of the benefits listed are also benefits of exercise! So, why do you need proper sleep if you are already addressing these benefits with your client’s exercise program?
Exercising without proper sleep is taking three steps forward and one backward. Imagine if you and your clients didn’t have to keep taking a step back in your progression. Adding a sleep hygiene routine, or rearranging daily activities can also help your clients get the most out of their workout without sacrificing sleep. It’s worth the time and effort to make sleep a priority.
Now you are able to recognize the incredible benefits of sleep, how can you use it as a tool to improve your coaching? Sleep Chronotypes. It turns out that when someone says they are a “morning bird” or a “night owl,” they are speaking in terms fairly close to a scientific way of describing a person’s biological clock for sleep.
There are four natural sleep chronotypes for human beings. Each of the four chronotypes is associated with one of four animals: lions, bears, wolves, and dolphins. These four animals stereotypically exhibit similar sleep patterns in nature to one of the human sleep chronotypes. You don’t get to choose your chronotype, but do note that your natural sleep pattern may evolve and change throughout your lifetime.
Here is a brief breakdown of the four sleep chronotypes. See if you can recognize you and your clients in any of the descriptions.
- Lion: people that exemplify the lion sleep chronotype are naturally early risers, and often wake up with high energy. The consequence of rising early, however, is lions use a majority of their energy in the morning and afternoon, so by early evening they are ready for bed. Lions should do activities that require the most energy in the morning. The ideal time to exercise is early morning, but lions may also exercise immediately after work. Any later, and the lion will be too energized at night and not receive proper pre-sleep hygiene for a good night of sleep.
- Bear: the bear sleep chronotype has a circadian rhythm aligning sleep with the absence of sunlight. Sunrise and sunset are wake up and bedtimes. Bears are most energized during late morning and early afternoon. It takes them a while to wake up, so working out before work is not ideal. The best time to exercise for a bear is early after work, but be sure to leave enough time to wind down before going to bed.
- Wolf: a person categorized as a wolf sleep chronotype is the equivalent of the layman’s term, “night owl.” These people experience difficulty waking up early and ideally participate in activities requiring high energy levels in the evening. Naturally, these people will get the most out of their workout by exercising in the evening. A wolf will rarely go to bed early, so there is not as much of a need to exercise immediately after work.
- Dolphin: of the four sleep chronotypes, dolphins are the most likely to be diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Dolphins are light sleepers and are often not receiving sufficient sleep. In this case, exercise is a great tool to use to regulate energy levels during the day. For example, a rigorous exercise routine in the morning can help energize a dolphin for a day of work. Strength training is best for mornings, while a light walk after work can help a dolphin make it through any evening duties and even contribute to better sleep at night.
Research collectively states that consistent exercise is proven to improve sleep. We are now aware that sleep can also be used as a tool to idealize energy levels during exercise too.
Instead of scheduling your client, who is a wolf chronotype, for an early morning workout, try an evening workout and see what it does to his available energy level. Take some time to examine your own daily schedule. Is there a better time for you to schedule your own workouts to be more energized for your clients throughout the day?
Add sleep hygiene to your toolbelt of coaching tips for your clients. Be sure to practice what you preach. As coaches, we spend a majority of our time primarily focused on others’ health and fitness, but make sure you are taking time for yourself to get your own ideal sleep every night. Prioritize your own sleep, so your clients receive your best self.
American Sleep Association. Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics. ASA. 2018. https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/
Valley Sleep Center. The Ideal Sleep Routine For Every Type Of Person. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. September 6, 2018. https://valleysleepcenter.com/the-ideal-sleep-routine-for-every-type-of-person/
Online Sleep Coach. The Simple Six to Sleep Program. Nick Lambe. The Online Sleep Coach. November 2019. https://www.onlinesleepcoach.com/simple-six-to-sleep