5 Tips to a Better Sleep
Sleep is essential to everything we do. Immune function, muscle growth and repair, concentration, memory and potentially even help you live longer! If you asked a 100 people right now I’m sure at least 90% of them would know we need at least 8 hours sleep but in reality how many people achieve this consistently? And if not then how can we improve our sleep?
When looking at the bigger picture we need to imagine your health is a triangle, and nutrition, exercise and sleep represent the three sides. There is no doubt people put a lot of time, energy and money into their exercise and nutrition but what about sleep? Sleep is one of the most powerful tools to enhance your training and I would recommend it before adding in any new and exciting supplement to your routine.
As a society we are working longer hours, living fast paced lives with increasing screen time and constant distractions all around us. There have also been advancements in technology which has created more awareness around sleep with apple watches and various apps. This has been a positive move however it’s time to take a step back and look at few simpler ways to help you get a better night sleep.
- Keep a consistent bedtime
This point is number one for a reason. It’s simple – Aim to go to bed the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. We are creatures of habit and our bodies have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleeping patterns. Once you get this habit started it will then become easier to maintain. Obviously there are going to be times where your routine is disrupted however it is important to get back to your normal sleep schedule as soon as possible. Trying to catch up on a ‘sleep deficit’ by sleeping longer on the weekends has minimal effect on and it will be difficult to be fully rested until your schedule is back on track.
- Avoid caffeine after lunch
Most people would have heard this before but often the early afternoon coffee can be too hard to resist. Surely it won’t make that much of a difference? Caffeine allows you to stay more alert and this feeling often peaks 30 minutes after consumption . However the issue is how long caffeine actually stays in your body. Caffeine has an average half life of 5-7 hours which basically means there can be upto 50% of the stimulant still circulating around your body during this time. This could be worse if you’ve had a coffee with more than one shot! By the time you’re in bed your body is still trying to get rid of the caffeine which could further contribute to bad nights sleep.
- Get outside in the sun
Our body is constantly in a battle between wake and sleep with our hormones continuing to change throughout the day to allow us to stay awake during daylight hours. Sunlight exposure is a key part of regulating our sleep patterns and it’s important to aim for 30 minutes of sunlight each day. With exposure to the sun our body helps block a hormone called melatonin which then spikes as darkness sets in and we start preparing our body for sleep. With more time spent indoors and on computers a simple walk on your lunch break could be essential for sleep and overall health.
- Keep your room dark, cold and technology free
This follows on from the previous point as the dark room and minimal technology reduces the amount of light exposure before beds and makes falling to sleep a smoother process. The idea is to remove any distractions from your room such as phone notifications, bright lights and warm temperatures. Having the room slightly cooler will allow you to fall asleep more easily. Changing these few things will create an optimal sleep environment and make sticking to your sleep schedule a whole lot easier.
- Give yourself time to switch off
This last one is definitely easier said that done however if you follow the other 4 tips then it should assist with this final point. With new technology we can access everyone at the touch of button and information anytime we want. Not only is this distracting but it also means it’s challenging to switch off from work and I often see people working late into the night. There are times where it’s an emergency however in reality there are many issues that can be left until the morning. Imagine using that extra time to accumulate sleep allowing you to be more focused and productive the next day? That’s the trade off we can make but it seems sleep is regularly sacrificed for work. Use this time to relax and unwind however you like and this can slowly become part of your bedtime ritual!
If there is anything I’ve learnt over the last 7 years of coaching it’s that sleep is essential no matter who you are. There may be certain people who can tolerate slightly less sleep however I believe there are a lot of issues which could be solved by consistently adding an extra hour or two of sleep! If you want to get more out of your training and look after your long term health then try out these 5 tips and see how they can impact your day to day life.
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