A lot of people underestimate the effect that sleep has on our lives. Not only does our brain function decrease in the way of attention span, concentration and decision making, but our training is also heavily affected. Performance in the gym when we are sleep deprived can be noticeably lower than when you are well-rested, and recovery is going to take longer (even if we did not lift as much as usual!).
We all want to perform the best that we can in all areas of life, and if you are struggling with your sleep then I definitely recommend working on your sleep hygiene! Sleep hygiene is basically ensuring that your habits around sleep and bedtime are optimal for getting a good night sleep.
Here are my top tips!
Avoid Afternoon Caffeine
If you are a big coffee or pre-workout drinker, keep in mind that it is best not to consume caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime. This can be difficult for anyone who usually has an afternoon coffee boost to get them through the second half of the working day, but I would recommend trying a decaf coffee or an alternative latte like Tumeric. These can fill the habit where you would usually be consuming caffeine and even offer a placebo effect! If you usually train in the evening and take a pre-workout beforehand, try swapping it for a non-stim version like EHPLabs Kiss My Peach!
Regular Sleep Pattern
If you struggle to get enough sleep through the week, then it can be tempting to ‘catch up’ and sleep in on the weekends, or maybe you stay up extra late on a Friday or Saturday night. Unfortunately, the best way to prepare your body for a good night's sleep is to keep a consistent sleep pattern. That means going to bed and getting up at a similar time each day. If that means getting an insufficient amount of hours, then it may be worth looking at your lifestyle throughout the week to see what you can change, to ensure you are well-rested every day!
The Perfect Sleep Environment
Ensure that your room is a comfortable temperature. It is best to have a slightly cooler room with blankets to keep you warm, rather than being hot and having to throw the blankets off! You can do this with the aid of your ceiling fan or a pedestal fan. Ensuring that your blinds or curtains blackout your room will help to not only keep you cool, but also to keep the darkness in your room. If you are unable to utilise blackout curtains, then an eye mask may also help. Keeping noise to a minimum may be difficult, especially if you have housemates, live in an apartment complex or near a main road. However, if it is possible to do so, minimising noise outside your room will greatly benefit your sleep!
If you have a busy and jam-packed day, then come home and try to go to sleep within an hour, it is likely that you will be unable to switch off or fall asleep. Our bodies are still stimulated from being at work or out and about all day, and we can not expect them to just shut off as soon as we ask. It takes spending a little bit of time, even up to two hours, settling down. This time can be spent doing whatever you personally find helps to calm your mind and body. A popular option is to read a book (that isn’t too mentally stimulating) in the lead up to bedtime, or having a warm bath an hour before getting into bed. Yoga or some light stretches are also a great way to slow down the body and our minds.
Avoid Screen Time
We all know that social media is very stimulating for our brain, so using it when we are trying to settle down is very counterproductive. It can be difficult to switch off, however, I urge you to try and avoid screen time in the hour leading up to going to bed. This can be extended to TV too if you would really like to challenge yourself! Replace the TV with a book before bedtime and your sleep will be thanking you.
Not only is a consistent training schedule beneficial for your physical health, but it also plays an important role in ensuring you get a long and deep sleep! Moving your body through regular exercise reduces stress and uses up energy, therefore promotes the type of sleep that helps us to recover and re-energise.
Working out in the morning or earlier in the afternoon is optimal in helping out sleep/wake cycle, and avoiding night time training can also hinder our ability to get to sleep. So keep in mind that WHEN you are training could also be affecting your sleep. Try setting your alarm an hour earlier in the morning to get it done first thing, or fitting in a lunchtime session during your break!
These changes may seem unachievable right now, however, if you try incorporating just one per week into your sleep routine, in a month’s time they will be so easy to follow through with!