Sleep is essential to our overall well being. Everyone relies on sleep in order to feel restored and perform at their healthiest, and athletes are no exception. A good night's sleep has the power to improve coordination and speed where lack of sleep can result in a decline in cognitive function, exhaustion, decreased accuracy, and a higher risk for injury. Whether you’re a pro athlete or lead an active lifestyle, gaining control of your sleep schedule can help you reach optimal performance. And while studies have shown that you can’t make up for lost sleep, you can set yourself up for 7-9 hours of quality time between the sheets, here’s how.
Why is Sleep Important for Performance?
Sleep is an essential pillar to health, and athletes in particular rely on that time so their bodies can effectively recharge and recover. The extended physical exertion demanded of them also requires an increase in the amount of sleep time each night so the heart can rest and cells and tissue can repair themselves.
Sleep also promotes a healthy immune system and is necessary for retaining facts and memories needed for high performance sports. When athletes learn new skills or plays, sleep helps to ingrain those memories into the brain. And like we mentioned before, a lack of sleep can result in a decline in cognitive function which disables quick decision making and motivation when performing.
How Sleep Stacks Up
Boosting sleep means boosting performance. A Stanford study of men’s basketball showed that players with an increased sleep regime of 10 hours a night ran faster in sprints, had increased shooting accuracy by at least 9%, and the athletes reported feeling better physically and mentally. Similarly, a study with sleep deprived male and female tennis players saw that players had decreased serve precision of 53%. Among those stats, lack of sleep has also been shown to exhaust athletes faster, decrease reaction and decision making time, decrease endurance, increase the rate of injury and lower resistance to illnesses. Lack of sleep affects more than just your mood and the biggest losses are seen in activity. We put together 7 steps to not only help achieve optimal rest, but optimal performance.
7 Ways Achieve Optimal Sleep in 7 Days
Create your dream sleep environment and remove electronics:
Your bedroom, and bed for that matter, should be about sleep and sex – a.k.a not emails. The blue light emitted from T.V.s, cell phones, tablets and computers can affect your circadian rhythm, meaning the light is signalling your brain to stay awake, rather than hit the hay. The ideal sleep space should be dark, cool and quiet. Investing in a white noise machine, bedside lamp and a great book crate and calming sanctuary for you to ease your mind and body before drifting off.
Set a regular schedule:
It’s pretty simple; going to bed and getting up at the same time every day makes for better sleep hygiene. Creating small rituals that you can look forward to help to form a habit and easily get your mind and body on board with the routine. It can be something as small as setting your coffee maker on a timer so it’s waiting for you when you wake up, or something as luxurious as an evening bath or meditation that can help you unwind.
Don’t force sleep:
If you’re having trouble dozing off after 20 minutes or more since shut eye, get out of bed and do a calming activity until you’re tired. In an effort to keep the bed off limits to activities other than sleeping (see Step 1), set up a cozy corner where you can retreat to with a book or guided meditation until you’re ready to try going to bed again. You’ll still want to avoid stimulants like blue light during this time.
Limit alcohol and caffeine:
These stimulants and diuretics not only affect your health and performance on a daily basis, but have the ability to interfere with your sleep. Whether it’s steering you off your sleep schedule or lowering the quality of sleep you are able to get, alcohol and caffeine can disrupt your sleep more than you know. Limit intake to one serving a day, or better yet none.
Keep naps to a minimum:
If you’re a napper, this is your reminder to set an alarm and keep them brief. Between 20 minutes and one hours is the sweet spot and it’s important to avoid sleeping late into the afternoon and evening as it can affect your ability to fall asleep later.
An increasing amount of research is showing a correlation between hydration and better sleep. We already know that drinking enough water throughout keeps your body healthy but it also ensures you’re properly hydrated into the night – while also avoiding having to wake up to use the bathroom. Alkaline Water is a great way to ensure extra hydration and aided muscle recovery from activity.
Eat well and workout during your waking hours:
We don’t only eat well and workout to fuel our awake hours, it also greatly and positively impacts sleep quality. These habits are essential to performance but also ensure we’re able to get a good night’s sleep without stressors, digestive issues and more. The endorphins released from working out reduce stress that can keep you up at night, while eating healthy provides your body with the tools necessary to cell repair and cognitive function while you rest. Eat well to sleep well.
Ready, set, SLEEP.