Most athletes check off the training, nutrition, and supplement boxes when it comes to pursuing personal fitness, but one box is often neglected. Sleep is one of the most important tools for recovery, and getting better sleep is one of the easiest ways to improve your performance in the gym.
By Roger Lockridge
One of the most overlooked recovery tactics you’re missing out on is sleep. The better you rest, the better you perform, it’s as simple as that. If you’re tossing and turning when you should be snoozing and dreaming, you aren’t going to be as productive as you should be when you’re awake. Incorporate these six tips into your routine and you’ll be on your way to better sleep and quality of life.
It is likely you already have a set time where you train, eat your meals, and go to work, so it would make sense to have a set time for going to bed. Your body will struggle if you go to bed at 10:00 PM one night and 1:00 AM the next. Unless you work a career with irregular hours, try to go to bed within the same half-hour every night, and keep an alarm set to get at least 6 hours of sleep.While it may be hard, keeping your sleep schedule consistent even over the weekend will result in better sleep during the work week.
Come Down Slowly
As bedtime approaches, find a calm activity you enjoy to help you relax before settling into bed. Reading a book, meditating, or taking a warm shower before resting are all good ways to unwind and prepare your mind and body for sleep. Hanging out with buddies, watching an exciting T.V. show, or browsing on your phone prior to bedtime can all be detrimental to better sleep, as these activities all stimulate the brain when you want to relax it.
At first, this one may seem counterintuitive. If you are tired and have the time, a nap would benefit you, but mostly in the short-term. While it is helpful in the moment, naps can negatively impact your sleeping patterns at night which is the time most will get better sleep and more effective recovery. While there are some gifted individuals who can take a midday nap and sleep well at night, the majority of us would do better powering through the day and getting a full night’s rest.
Remember when I mentioned the stimulating effect cell phones and T.V.’s have on our brains? The same goes for lights in the house. When it’s time to shut down for the night, it’s best for your room to be completely dark. Light can be distracting to the eyes and prevent you from dozing off. Lying in the dark will relax your central nervous system and prepare your body for better sleep.
If you aren’t comfortable when you lay down to rest, it’s a given that you won’t be getting the best sleep possible. If your mattress is not comfortable you won’t be able to relax, and are likely to toss and turn throughout the night. While an expensive mattress may seem like a huge investment, it’s an important one to make considering we spend 25%-35% of our lives in bed. If you’re going to be in the same place for that much time, spending a bit more will undoubtedly aid you in your journey to better sleep. Consider other products such as comfortable pillows, soft sheets, ear plugs, a sleeping mask, or an essential oil diffuser to make your sleeping environment as comfortable as possible.
Avoid Big Eating/Drinking at Night
While nutrition is essential to recovery, big eating or drinking before bed has the potential to disrupt your sleep and send you on a midnight trip to the bathroom. While it may only be 5 minutes to get up and go, your sleep cycle will be interrupted and you may have trouble getting back to sleep. If you are going to eat before bed, make sure it is something light and healthy to avoid getting up during the night.
Getting better sleep is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most overlooked components of recovery. Implement these tips to get a better night’s rest and improve your performance in and out of the gym!