July 25, 2011

Optimal Sleep

The importance of sleep as a means of recovery from training cannot be understated.  Outside of a drastic change in nutrition or injury, nothing can have as big an immediate impact on performance as poor sleep the night before an important training session…as the father of a newborn this has recently hit home in more ways than one.

In my experience, optimal sleep really comes down to two main areas which need to be accounted for every night: Environment and Routine

Environment refers to your bedroom and how it is set-up to ensure a good night’s sleep.  Your room should be cool, dark, quiet, and without distraction (i.e. television, computer, smartphone). Your bedroom should be quiet and relaxing and anything out of the ordinary can prevent you from getting the sleep you need, so take the steps necessary to improve the sleep environment; black out curtains, ear plugs, AC unit or fan, etc. A unique tip I picked up from my friend Dutch Lowy of BlackBox FW is to avoid overhead light and instead use lamps in the bedroom prior to going to sleep.  The overhead light is similar to that experienced with sunlight, and actually signals the body to wake up, opposite of what we are trying to accomplish.

Routine refers to your actions around falling to or waking from sleep.  The time immediately before going to sleep is crucial in that even insignificant actions can have a serious effect on your quality of sleep. Try to do the same things each night before you go to bed.  The more regular the routine the better, as eventually your body will begin to recognize that it's time to get ready for sleep each night. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.  The more consistent you can be about your sleep and wake time, weekends too, the easier it will be to stay in your routine.

Another potential part of the routine that I have used over the years is the “brain dump” prior to bed.  Throughout grad school and during the early part of my academic career, stress over deadlines and assignments would keep me up at night.  The worry of what needs to happen first thing in the morning led to many semi-sleepless nights.  The “brain dump” help fix this problem. 30 minutes before I began my sleep routine I would make a list of everything that need to happen the next day or that was currently on my mind.  I would just write it down in a notebook and not think about it until the next day. Some nights the list was 2 pages of important info, and other nights it was a partial grocery list, but whatever was on my mind went on the list and theoretically left my mind temporarily to help in falling asleep.

Maximize your sleep environment and routine and you will improve recovery from training. (Disclaimer-- these tips may not work when in the presence of a newborn baby)

1 comment:

  1. I read the same in Reader's Digest. Athletes also need their rest as sleep help repairs cellular and muscle damage in their field of game.