After reading Part One to my Sleep Guide for Athletes, it should now be understood exactly why sleep is crucial for athletes. Unless a question about how sleep impacts neurological function happens to get called at trivia night (sounds like a fun trivia night to me), there’s a good chance the information in part one is useless without some sort of action you can take.
That’s exactly why I created Part 2 of this series. I want to give out some specific strategies and tips that have given my athletes and I longer, more fulfilling sleep. Once again, I’m not a sleep doctor, and what works for some people may not work for others, but I created this guide to help athletes and those who continue to support me get better sleep and take control of their performance.
Treat sleep as a serious tool for improving athletic performance and use some of these strategies in your own life.
You can find thousands of different results on the internet on this topic, but how do you know what actually works? Well, the only way to truly find out if it works for you is to try it. Rather than have you look through and try all of the results yourself, I have 5 strategies that I follow to help my own sleep and think you should try too.
Each point is listed as #1 because no tip is more or less important than the next, and I find some people (myself included) begin taking things less seriously after a couple of points. So take these strategies and start trying them out.
I know I said that no point was more important than another, but I have to get this one out of the way first. If you’re peeing, you aren’t sleeping, hopefully. It’s that simple. On top of that, you then have to find a way to get back to sleep which seems to be a substantial problem in a lot of people’s sleep.
For me, this rule means I have to stop drinking water by around 8pm. I try and reach my daily water intake goals by about 7, and then drink moderately until 8. For you, that might mean 6pm or it might mean 10pm. It’s all about running experiments on yourself and seeing what works for you.
Darkness is absolutely crucial for a good night’s sleep. Darkness sends a signal to your brain telling it that it’s time for you to rest. Any light encountered during your sleep gives an opposite signal, telling you that it might be time to wake up. I recommend block out blinds to keep your room completely dark. If you’re looking for a cheap alternative, go to a thrift store and buy a black bed sheet and hang it by your window. It works just as well and is a fraction of the price. The absence of light will lead to a more relaxing sleep for your brain.
As well as being in a dark room, studies have shown that being in a cooler room at night has a positive effect on the quality of sleep (1). 65°F is widely regarded as the “optimal temperature” for sleep, but once again, it’s about finding what your body responds well to and following that. Through many trials, I’ve found that 67°F works well for me.
The reason that temperature plays a role in sleep is because of your circadian rhythm. At night, your body naturally begins to shed heat to try and cool itself down, eventually heating again when you wake up. A room that’s too hot or too cold will throw this process off its natural cycle, leading to poor sleep quality.
I encourage you to start testing different temperatures while you sleep, and come up with one that feels the best.
As well as being in a dark room, studies have shown that being in a cooler room at night has a positive effect on the quality of sleep
Journalling and intention setting are strategies that I find improve my sleep dramatically. Having the opportunity to journal and write out everything that may be on your mind feels so good when it’s time to catch some z’s. Putting anything that may be bothering you or that you’re even just thinking about at night on paper seems to calm the brain, getting you ready for bed.
Intention setting is less commonly used than journal setting as a sleep strategy but is just as beneficial. What I mean by setting your intentions is to write out what you want to achieve tomorrow and the things you have to do to get there. If my intention is to have a productive day tomorrow, I might write things like: wake up early, start work project, and workout at 3pm. It’s super simple and super effective.
This is one that I struggle with the most and is the main source for me not getting good sleep. Don’t go on your phone before bed!! Cruising through Instagram provides your brain with so much stimulus that makes it harder to shut off and go to bed. Because it’s the internet, you’ll probably end up seeing something you don’t agree with and the pissed-off state you’re going to be in definitely isn’t the relaxing environment we’re looking for.
Your phone will also emit blue light which inhibits the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates, you guessed it, the circadian rhythm. For this reason alone, screens should be off at least 30 minutes before sleeping.
Try reading a book or meditating before sleep instead of swiping through angry emails, the benefits are immense. You can throw your phone on do not disturb or turn it off completely, but I find the best way for me to follow this step is to keep my phone outside of my room. This completely eliminates the temptation of your phone, letting you focus on rejuvenating yourself with sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, doing this is hard, especially when being on your phone before bed is a habit you’ve created over time, but give it a fair try for a week, and see how you feel.
This point might be the most important part of this whole blog because it requires putting everything together. Your body clearly likes consistency, so what better way to please your body than to come up with a routine that you perform every night to get ready for bed.
My routine will look different than yours and that’s okay. Whatever you craft it to be, a routine performed before sleep will be beneficial. You might set your intentions for the day, do a quick 10-minute meditation, read 10 pages of a book (a real book, not on your phone), and then go to sleep. Not only are you going to get the benefits of better sleep, but now you’ll know what your plans are tomorrow while reaping the rewards of daily meditation to go along with all the knowledge gained from consistently reading. It seems like a pretty good deal.
Eventually, your body will get so used to this routine, that it will naturally know that it is time to get ready for bed as soon as you begin. Easier said than done, of course, forming a routine takes practice and discipline, but you will definitely be rewarded.
Reading before bed instead of scrolling through your phone is an easy way to regulate your circadian rhythm and get a better sleep.
I’ve recently started a nightly routine and I think you should too. Mine is as simple as leaving my phone on silent on the other side of the room and then reading 10 pages of my book. I’m completely zonked after reading and ready to sleep. I’ve been getting to bed way earlier than usual and have been waking up more refreshed than ever before.
You now have all of the information as to why sleep is important (Part One here if you missed it) and how you can go about receiving all of its benefits, so for this week’s action, I want you to run tests and see what works for you. Come up with a relaxing nightly routine and perfect it over time. Try putting some of these pieces together and find what helps you wake up refreshed. I’m not asking you to do all of these things at once, but systematic trial and error is going to be your best friend.
Hit me on Instagram and let me know what your nightly routine is and any other tips that you think I should give a try!
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