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You Don't Need More Exercise -- You Need More Sleep First

"No matter how hard you train, if you don't sleep enough, you will lose." My brother, who just won the South German bodybuilding championship in his weight category last Sunday, told me.

Like food and exercise, sleep is a major pillar of your health.

In any endeavor, weight loss, building muscle, learning something new, preparing for a test or a speech, flying a plane -- almost anything you can think of -- the person who slept enough will perform at their highest levels and get maximum results.

If you want to become this person, read on.

When was the last time you got eight hours of sleep without an alarm clock or a notification on your phone waking you up?

In today's world, balancing your work life and your health is harder than ever.

"Five hours of sleep is enough for me." I often hear.

It's a lie. How do I know? Well, I tried it for six months, then I collapsed.

I thought that the less I sleep, the more time I have to create. But soon, I found that having less sleep, also means, it's easier to be distracted and stressed. I felt worse every week.

"Maybe I need more exercise." I thought and started to do a 15-minute bodyweight workout three times per week. But still I got migraine attacks every two weeks.

"Sleep more or take pills. Your choice," the doctor told me.

I did. It worked. By sleeping more, I became more productive, I could focus better, and my mood improved a lot.

What I learned is that the first thing you need to become happier, healthier, smarter, stronger and more creative is not more exercise. You need more sleep first.

One out of three people nod off while driving [1]. 100,000 of preventable accidents happen in the U.S each year. If you're sleepy while driving to work, you'll drive as if you had three beers for breakfast [2]. Don't be that person -- do this instead:

5 steps that helped me go from sleep-deprived and insomnia to energized and refreshed

1. I got rid of the alarm clock that shook me out of my sleep for so long.
We go to sleep when our biological clock tells us to. But we get up when our electronic clock tells us to. The problem is that for most people these two clocks are not attuned to each other. That puts us in a sleep deprived state. To cure that I stopped setting an alarm.

2. I found my natural sleeping time by recording bed and wake up times.
Without alarm I wake up after 7.5 hours. Every day. My biological clock is really consistent. It does, however, vary from person to person. Some people need more some less, but all need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep says the National Sleep Foundation. [3]

3. I determine wake up time by time I go to bed.
Since I know the amount of sleep I need each night, it's very easy to determine my wake up time without an alarm clock. I count back 7.5 hours from the time I want to wake up. I usually get up at 6am, and that means I need to fall asleep at 10:30 p.m.

4. I do a 10-minute meditation before I go into bed to cleanse and silence my mind.
Falling asleep can sometimes be difficult. Most of the time it's the mind that keeps me awake. Conscious breathing helps me to create gaps in the stream of thought. With practice these gaps expand. Three conscious breaths is all it takes for me to silence the mind. After that, 30 minutes is all it takes for me to fall asleep.

5. When I wake unprompted and refreshed, I've slept enough.
Sometimes I wake up at 5 a.m. got to the toilet, but go back to sleep, because I don't feel rested. Most of the time, I wake up at the same time each morning. Once I open my eyes and feel refreshed, I start the day.
If you feel that you are sleep-deprived this is what you could to do today •Take a 30-minute nap during the day
•Go to bed 30 minutes earlier
•Get up 30 minutes later

Even if you don't fall asleep during a 30-minute nap, you still get some rest. For 20 years of my life I've never taken a nap except when I was a baby. It takes practice.

One more thing...

"Sleep is the most underrated health habit in our world today," it says in Arianna Huffington's book Thrive [4].

Some people pride themselves with how less sleep they need. Maybe it's true. Maybe not. Rather pride yourself with being healthy, rested, refreshed and happy.