Sleep: How to get better at it.
As everyone will tell you, sleep quality and quantity will always influence your day. For the modern athlete or regular gym goer sleep is no becoming a priority in terms of preparation for competition and recovery from training.
“The modern elite athlete knows that physical conditioning and good nutrition are critical in reaching peak athletic performance; however, sleep, while often overlooked, plays an equally important role. In recent years, it’s become clear that the quality and quantity of sleep obtained by elite athletes can be the edge between winning and losing on game-day.”
If it’s good enough for the elite athlete, then it will benefit anyone in today’s society!
Why do we need sleep?
Good sleep benefits us in all areas of life from school/work, health and performance.
|More alert||Improved immune health||Improved performance|
|More interactive||Decrease risk of disease, stroke, high blood pressure||Improved psychological performance|
|Improved memory||Reduced risk of injury|
Here are just a few of the results you can see from improving your sleep quality and quantity. Keep reading for tips on how to improve in this area and how you can benefit from it.
Consequences of poor sleep
There are 3 different groups we can categorise these into
Physically there Is a risk of increased fatigue and injury rates when the body is place in a sleep deprived state. There is also a reduction in power output and sprint acceleration/speed. These will all lead to a decrease in influential performance.
Psychologically there are also many different areas affected by poor sleep. You may feel an increase in stress throughout the day, this may then lead to increased negativity and a decrease in productivity. Motivation, creativity, problem solving, reaction time and decision making will also decrease due to poor sleep. This shows that getting the correct amount of sleep can have a great effect on your performance on the sports field and in the office at work.
Finally, you will see behaviour changes due to poor sleep. How many times when you’re tired do you crave that sugary or fatty food? Poor sleep can affect the food choices we make during the day, which could be a nightmare for those looking at making body compositional changes. It will also have an effect on preparation. You may want to take the ‘easy’ choice and not prepare for your meals, and just take the ‘grab and go’ option instead. This is obviously not the optimal choice for health and performance reasons.
So, how do you improve your sleep?
As you may be well aware caffeine is a stimulant that many rely upon early in the day. It is therefore obvious this should be avoided before bed. It is advised that no drinks containing this should be consumed after 5pm.
It is also advised to improve the quality of your bedroom in order to help you relax and make it a more sleep friendly environment. This includes switching off all electronic devises, investing in blackout curtains/blinds and keeping it a cool room (do you find it easier to fall asleep in winter than summer?). Generally making it a comfortable environment to be in will help you get the sleep you require.
As stated above electronic equipment can be very harmful to the quantity and quality of sleep. It is advised to not use any electronic devises at least 30 mins prior to bed, but the longer you have between the better. Why not pick up a book and read instead?
Keeping a constant sleep schedule is one of the best ways to help your body adjust to sleep timings. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will help your body adapt. It also helps as your body will feel tired when its used to going to sleep.
Having a pre-bed routine has been shown to improve the quality. Research has shown a warm bath/shower an hour before bed will aid in sleep. The changing body temperature has been shown to increase drowsiness before bed. Reading a book is also a great way of unwinding a relaxing. Making sure you find something to relax you after a stressful day is important for sleep.
Keeping sleep records will also help with timings. Something as simple as recording down how much and the quality of sleep will give you an idea of what works well in the pre-bed routine you follow and what you might be able to do to improve this.
Try not to eat your main meal too late and stay hydrated throughout the day. Gut fullness will not help you in relaxing before bed and you will find you won’t get the quality of sleep you need. It is also important to stay hydrated throughout the day. 71% of the population wake up during the night to go to the toilet or go for a drink. This is clearly not good for quality therefore controlling this will be important.
Finally…. How much sleep should I be having?
The average population should be getting at least 8 hours per night. However, athletes and gym goers who have extra demands and stressors being put on them should be getting more, around 1-2 hours more. It is therefore a good idea when planning for sleep to work backwards. Work out when you need to be up in the morning then work backwards and you’ll know when you should be going to sleep.
It’s all good knowing this but think of the benefits of actually putting this into place and reaping the rewards because of it.
“If It’s Not Worth Getting Up Early For…
It’s Not Worth Staying Up Late For!”