5 Sleep Tips Personal Trainers Need to Know to Help Their Clients

This article was originally featured on LinkedIn, where I write about sleep for corporate wellness, athletics and personal training.

The goal of every personal trainer is to help their clients feel better in their bodies. Whether that’s through losing weight, gaining muscle, setting a new PR or simply having someone to push them beyond their perceived limitations. 

In the past, the job of a personal trainer was purely to help a person work out more effectively. Their time together started and ended in the gym. 

Nowadays, personal trainers are expected to know more about the other critical aspects of physical health and well-being, like nutrition. With the rise of online certification programs, it’s commonplace to find a personal trainer who knows just as much about strength training as they do about macronutrients and meal prep. 

For their clients, they’re working to become the “total package” of health. Which makes perfect sense, because who better to help you figure out your meal plans for weight loss than the very person who knows exactly how you’re training and recovering? Likewise, the interplay between exercise and nutrition is so tightly connected that you really can’t effectively optimize one without addressing the other. 

Yet, are exercise and nutrition the only two areas that personal trainers should be helping their clients with? Or at least steer them in the right direction? 

The truth is, there are three golden sides to the health and vitality pyramid and those are 1) Sleep, 2) Nutrition and 3) Exercise (arguably listed in order of importance).

Each one is so inextricably intertwined with the other two that when one improves the others follow suit and when one digresses so do the other two. 

Which means it’s a good idea for personal trainers to not only become the go-to resource for exercise and a quality knowledge base for nutrition but to also provide sound guidance in the world of sleep.

In fact, your ability to effectively train and help your clients get results will be amplified by helping them improve their sleep. 

🤔 Just imagine being able to help your clients:

  • Lose more weight than previously imagined and at a faster rate

  • Feel more energized, enthusiastic and excited for their training sessions

  • Experience less stress and anxiety and greater joy and happiness

  • Increase lean muscle mass and recover faster in-between training sessions

  • Perform better in their chosen sports with increased speed, strength, reaction time and endurance

  • Perform with higher cognitive function, mental acuity, and problem-solving abilities

If you’re a personal trainer, don’t these sound like the holy grail of client results? 

Well, the secret to these results is available to your clients for absolutely free. All they need is someone to help them learn and implement proper sleep techniques. 

So if you’re a personal trainer looking to attract new clients, retain old ones, differentiate yourself and provide insane results-driven value, then here are the 5 things you need to know about sleep:

1. ☀️ Get sun exposure in the first half of the day to keep your circadian rhythm strong

The average adult spends 87% of their time indoors and only 2.5 hours outside, which is usually after sunset. This has caused the majority of working adults to develop a circadian rhythm imbalance, which increases inflammation throughout the body and causes cognitive deficits. 

In the modern world, we wake up in a house, possibly while it’s still dark, get into a car, walk into work and stay there until 5 or 6 pm, at which time we drive to a gym and then workout inside. During this time, we’re exposed to artificial lights in our homes and workplaces and sunlight through windows. 

This is a big deal because our brains have developed to require natural daylight in order to function properly and keep our organs operating on a consistent schedule. Without exposure to daylight, your clients will experience low moods, decreased performance, impaired alertness and possibly a cortisol-melatonin excretion imbalance. 

When your clients get at least one hour of sunlight in the first half of the day, they’ll set the tone for their mental performance throughout the rest of the day and be better prepared for whatever training session you have in store.

2. 🏃‍♀️ Don’t engage in vigorous exercise 1 hour before bed but do consider a brisk walk

When it comes to exercising at night, the two factors that your clients need to consider are 1) stimulation and 2) temperature. 

Vigorous exercise – like interval training – is stimulating to both the body and the brain. Research shows that high-intensity exercise for one hour or less before bedtime causes poorer sleep quality and an increase in the time it takes to fall asleep. This is mostly because of the stimulation and increase in hormones like cortisol, which counteracts your body’s desire to produce melatonin. 

That said, engaging in lighter exercise in the 3-5 hours before bed can actually help your clients fall asleep faster and sleep soundly. Going for a brisk walk increases core body temperature, which will actually help increase sleepiness as your body cools down (similar to a hot bath). 

As you know, walking is also incredibly beneficial for a person’s health, especially any elderly clients. It’ll help to reduce stress, get away from technology at night, spend time in nature (location-depending), and provide an opportunity to connect with a loved one, a pet or to practice mindfulness.

3. 🧘‍♀️Prioritize recovery after training sessions to avoid overtraining-induced insomnia

You obviously know that your clients need to spend time recovering after a training session, yet if you’re not always there with them there’s a chance they may skip out. If they become under recovered then they run the risk of developing Overtraining Syndrome, other underperformance conditions or adrenal fatigue. 

Anyone who's ever experienced overtraining knows how detrimental it can be for their sleep. In the earliest stages, athletes will experience insomnia that leads to them feeling “tired but wired.” Which is basically feeling really tired but unable to fall asleep because their mind and body are still racing. Late-stage overtraining will lead to a client feeling utterly exhausted all of the time regardless of how much sleep they get. 

So to ensure that their training doesn’t crest over the hump and impact their sleep, have them really prioritize recovery principles like: 

  • Foam rolling

  • Massage

  • Kinesiotape

  • Cryotherapy

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Anti-inflammatory diet

Doing so will keep them around as clients longer for you, reduce injuries and stress, improve sleep and help their body rebound faster.

4. 😄Focus on what you’re grateful for before sleep to reduce negative cognitions 

One of the biggest culprits for acute insomnia turning into chronic insomnia are negative sleep cognitions, or negative thoughts about a person’s ability to sleep. In the lead up to this, people usually spend time before sleep thinking about all of the things going wrong in their life. What they should’ve done, what they need to do, what somebody said to them that irritated them, so on and so forth. 

It’s unbelievable what our thoughts can do to our health and performance, and that simply by thinking, we can be led into debilitating insomnia. 

That is unless you share with your clients the importance of cultivating a nightly gratitude practice. 

New research has proven that practicing gratitude before sleep will increase the number of positive thoughts before bed while reducing negative ones. This will ultimately decrease anxiety, worry, fear and cognitive spinning that may get in the way of quality sleep (and is so pervasive in this “always be better” world). 

In one study, having a gratitude practice improved sleep quality and duration, while reducing the amount of time it took to fall asleep and any daytime sleep-related dysfunction. 

5. 🥶 Sleep in a cool environment to improve sleep onset and muscle growth 

And lastly, an oldie but goodie. I suggest you really reinforce the idea of sleeping in a cool environment for your clients. They have probably already heard this one when it comes to falling asleep, but they may not realize that it also helps your body to secrete human growth hormone, which helps with muscle recovery. 

By keeping their bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 to 19 degrees Celsius, their body will have an easier time producing melatonin at night and drifting off to sleep. 

Yet since we’re talking about peak performance here, don’t just stop at the ambient temperature. Let them know that their mattress, bedding, and pajamas all play a role in how well their body regulates the heat at night. If they want to go big, invest in an Eight Sleepmattress so they can intelligently control their personal body temperature throughout the night.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Benson 😴 is a Performance Sleep Coach dedicated to helping ambitious executives, athletes and teams improve their physical, mental and emotional performance through sleep. She’s the creator of the Performance Sleep Method; a mind, body and lifestyle assessment that delivers a personalized blueprint for improving common complaints like insomnia, daytime fatigue, and restless sleep. In an effort to help more people around the world sleep like champions, Kelly also works with personal trainers, life coaches and other health professionals to educate them on the most pertinent sleep topics for their clients.

If you're a personal trainer or coach and would like to add value to your offerings by helping your clients optimize their sleep, shoot me an email and I'll get you started with my Sleep Pro beta program.

Be sure to also connect with me on Linkedin and on Twitter and let me know what you thought about this article.

To your well-rested success in business, life, and love

~ Kelly

Kelly BensonComment