Sleep – or more so, the lack of quality sleep – can be a contributing factor to adverse mental health issues as well as a lack of progression in the gym. Poor sleep quality not only limits your ability to recover from training, but it also contributes to low energy levels, a lack of libido, low levels of motivation and digestive issues just to name a few.
Now that we’ve highlighted some of the things that can go wrong when your sleep quality isn’t optimal, you’re probably wondering if we’re going to suggest a few ways to help improve you sleep quality? Fortunately for you, I slept very well last night… 😉
So today, I’ll be sharing five strategies to improve your quality of sleep in order to enhance your recovery and productivity.
1. Limit Caffeine Consumption 4 – 6 Hours Before Bed Time
Caffeine is an amazing supplement for increasing energy, mental alertness and workout performance. However, as far as sleep is concerned, caffeine provides all the things you need to avoid when trying to get a good night’s sleep.
Why limit caffeine 4 – 6 hours prior to bed time?
Caffeine has a half-life of approximately 5 to 6 hours. (A half-life refers to the time required for the amount of any specified property to decrease by half.)
So with this in mind, let’s do some quick maths…
If you take a pre workout supplement containing 300mg of caffeine at 6.00pm, by 11pm you’ll still have approximately 150mg of caffeine in your system. So even if you can’t “feel it” – it’s still circulating around your body. This means it’s more than likely to prevent you from having the highest quality of sleep that’s required for optimal recovery.
2. Avoid / Reduce Artificial Light Exposure ~1 Hour Before Bed Time
Before the advent of electricity, light globes, cars and 60” TV’s, a sunset meant everything around us would go dark. This signalled our body’s to start naturally producing more melatonin. Melatonin helps the body regulate the sleep/wake cycle – also known as the circadian rhythm. In a nutshell, the circadian rhythm is how our body regulates our natural waking and sleeping times.
Thus back in the day, a sunset caused our body’s to start producing more melatonin, which made us more tired, fatigued and ready to go to sleep. However, this isn’t generally what happens these days thanks to all of the artificial light being emitted from our TV’s, smartphones, light bulbs, computers, iPads etc.
At night, exposure to artificial light disrupts our bodies normal, cyclical release of melatonin – and can potentially have adverse effects on our sleep-wake cycle. So in order to put yourself in the most optimal position for a quality night’s sleep, we recommend abstaining from the use of any artificial light source at least 30 minutes to an hour (more if possible) prior to your scheduled bed time.
3. Do Something to Help You Relax Prior to Bedtime
In order to allow our bodies fully rest and recuperate, we need to create a sleep routine that will help you relax prior to bedtime. One of the easiest ways to do this is put yourself in an environment that is free from distractions and artificial light.
What to Do:
- Have a hot shower prior to bed
- Use a foam roller or have a dedicated stretching session for 10 – 15 minutes after a shower, prior to going to bed
- Read a book by candlelight or a dimly lit light
- Listen to an audiobook with your eyes closed (don’t forget to turn on the sleep timer!)
What NOT to Do:
- Try to avoid watching TV before bed.
- If you MUST watch TV, try to avoid anything that might spike your heart rate – e.g. thrillers, murder mystery, excessively violent or anything that’s going to get your mind racing or get you hyped up.
- Don’t mindlessly scroll through social media for the 407th time that day… Just like the fridge you opened an hour ago, nothing has changed and it still the exact same as last time you looked at it.
4. Eat Carbohydrates in The Evening
Carbohydrate consumption prior to sleep increases the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. High levels of serotonin prior to sleep can help soothe your brain into a calm and tranquil state, helping sleep to come more easily. In theory this means – the higher amount of serotonin in your bloodstream prior to sleep, the more restful your sleep will be.
Carbs at night?! Won’t that make me fat?
To answer that question simply – no, carbohydrates at night WON’T make you fat. However, eating too many calories for what your body requires on a daily basis, for an extended period of time, is what will make you fat.
Let’s get that clear one last time…
The best thing to do regarding your carbohydrate consumption is to plan your carbohydrate intake across the day, variable to your personal needs.
Next, in order to get the benefits of higher levels of serotonin at night, you should aim to consume 40 to 50% of your daily carbohydrate intake in the last meal you have prior to sleep.
Use the “Carb-Coma” to your advantage here…
The other percentage of your carbohydrate intake can be spread out evenly throughout the day.
5. Set a Bed Time (and stick to it!)
As simple as it sounds, aiming to get to bed at a set time might sound easy, but as always, life tends to get in the way of these ‘easy’ plans. This is why planning, scheduling and personal responsibility around your bedtime is so important.
Remember that circadian rhythm we mentioned earlier?
Your body can’t get into a healthy sleep-wake cycle if you don’t give it the opportunity to! Not to mention, you can’t expect to wake up feeling fully rested and ready to take on the day if you haven’t stuck to a routine which respects your body’s natural requirements for melatonin production!
How do I set myself up for a perfect start to the week?
Setting yourself up for a perfect start to the week can enable you to carry that momentum throughout rest of the week. This will reduce the likelihood of having to sacrifice to your sleep and recovery time caused by a few late nights as a result of poor planning and time management.
When planning the week ahead, being realistic – and more importantly – honest with yourself, is the key to setting yourself up for sleeping success.
Think about it, how productive are you REALLY after 9:00pm or 10:00pm on a week day?
Are you achieving significant steps towards your work or training goals past 8:00pm or 9:00pm?
Or are you wasting precious time watching TV or scrolling through Instagram?
Could this time be better used to catch up on some much needed rest and recovery?
What to Do:
- Plan your week ahead with a dedicated bedtime each night
- Set daily and weekly goals for your sleep hygiene and be sure to include an “hours of sleep per day/week goal”
- Stop watching TV / using smartphones at least two hours prior to bedtime
- Set an alarm for when it’s time to go to bed
- Try logging off social media once you leave work and don’t log back in until the next day (this will hep you remove that burning desire for a quick scroll)
Original article: Australian Sports NutritionTry Sauna & Steam Room For Recovery