Sleep. We all know we need it. We’ve all heard countless times how important it is for our overall health and recovery in the gym. Did you know that if you get 8 or more hours of sleep you drastically reduce the chance of a sport or exercise related injuries by up to 30% vs. a 65% chance with 7 or less hours? But what are we really doing to prioritize it? How do we know if we are actually sleeping enough? How do we know if we’re getting the proper recovery we need to better ourselves in the gym and keep healthy? Short answer is, most of us aren’t. But today I’m going to show you how you can start sleeping better tonight!
Coach Sean’s tips on building healthy sleep habits to better your life in and out of the gym!
- Create consistent sleep and wake time. Yes even on days where you can technically sleep in, try to avoid it. Making up for the lack of sleep on a Saturday isn’t actually making your sleep any better. In fact, it’s hindering it. By building a consistent wake/sleep time we can drastically improve your quality of sleep by creating a pattern that your body becomes accustomed to and make sure you get the proper recovered sleep.
- Avoid exercising too close to bedtime. Try to train at least three hours before sleeping.
- Avoid as much caffeine, nicotine, some teas and soda as much as possible. It can take upwards to 8 hours for stimulants to wear off. Anything consumed in the afternoon will directly impact your sleep.
- Avoid drinking before bed. Consumption of alcohol basically robs you of your REM sleep. (that’s the stuff that repairs our brain and muscles) Sleeping for 7 hours may sound like you’re doing a good job, but because of the three beers you consumed you only achieved 30 mins of REM sleep, this is unfortunately not going to make you feel any better. Alcohol not only raises your resting heart rate but also leads to more wake events as soon as it wears off.
- Avoid large meals and consumption of heavy liquids before bed. About 2-3 hours before to be exact. It’s simple, the more you eat, the more your body works to digest, which is the exact opposite of what we want when we sleep. We want the body to relax, not work overtime. The more you drink, the more you have to pee—the more you have to pee, the more restless sleep you achieve.
- If POSSIBLE try avoiding medicines that disrupt your sleep.Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure and asthma medications as well as over the counter cold and flu drugs can disrupt sleeping patterns. If you do take such medications and have trouble sleeping, speak to your healthcare provider and to see whether any drugs you’re taking might possibly be contributing to your insomnia or ask whether they can be taken at other times in the day.
- Stop taking naps. Naps in the moment feel good, but anything too long or past 3pm can make it harder to fall asleep late at night. If you must, try taking a foot elevated 15-30 min nap in the early afternoon.
- Relax before bed. Don’t push off work from home till the last minute. Prioritizing a relaxing activity like reading a book should be part of your night time routine.
- Take a hot bath before bed, it can be relaxing and once you’re out, the drop in body temp may help you feel sleepy.
- Sleep in a dark room, cool environment, no noise and remove any electronics you can from your room. You must be distraction free. Also no one ever sleeps better sweaty either!
- Limit the amount of artificial light before bed, and maximize natural sunlight as much as possible during the day. Your body can’t tell the difference between artificial light and the sun. If you see too much light too close to bedtime, your body thinks it’s the sun, halting the natural production of melatonin within the body. Exposing yourself to natural sunlight will help your body understand when it should be nighttime. This is a rough way of describing getting your circadian rhythm on track, which can be discussed another time in great detail. Naturally you want to dim as much lighting as possible before bed. Break out the candles!
- Stop lying in bed when you can’t sleep. Get up, remove yourself from the bed and do a relaxing activity to calm yourself. The more we lie awake, the more anxious we get, making it harder to sleep.
If you guys enjoyed this and want to understand sleep better please let me know. We haven’t even scratched the surface. Sleep is literally the most essential part of life. Without it, we won’t have life. Sleep pressure, melatonin, adenosine, jet lag, blue light and supplements are something we can spend hours talking about. If this interests, you let us know and we can create a new topic on sleep in the future! —Coach Sean