Sleep is one of the biggest but often ignored factors that will be affecting your performance and health; it is essential for the brain and the body. In relation to your performance, sleep loss disrupts growth and repair of cells (which is how we recover, adapt and improve after training sessions), disrupts glucose metabolism, increases risk of injury, increases perceived exertion, reduces your power output and reduces time to exhaustion in training, in addition sleep loss lowers our immunity and resistance to respiratory infection – which is of particular relevance at this Covid point in time and in winter. In addition, lack of sleep impacts our mental wellbeing.
Sleep is just as important as your diet and training, but do you prioritise it and prioritise ensuring you have good quality sleep?
It only requires some simple changes to your day-to-day life to start improving the quality of your sleep.
First start of by tracking your sleep and factors that impact it – when do you go to bed and when do you wake up? Do you wake up feeling rested and alert or tired? Do you have a deep sleep or a restless sleep? Do you drink alcohol/caffeine later in the day (after 3pm)?
Next, try the following changes to improve your sleep quality:
- Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet and with no light-emitting devices in the room – no tvs, laptops, ipads, and no phones ideally!
- Room between 17 and 22°C.
- Avoid looking at your phone/tv for 30min before bed – read a book, magazine, take a bath, relax! But get away from screens.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals close to bedtime.
- Stick to a routine – if you normally get up at 6am or 7am don’t sleep in on days off until 8.30am. Similarly don’t have a late night because it’s Friday, if you normally go to bed at 10pm, stick to that.
- Aim for 7-9h sleep/night (for adults).
- Get outside for at least 15min of sunlight exposure early in the day – this sets your body clock for the day (not to mention we all need more sunlight for vitamin D).
So take a look at your sleep now and see if you can make any improvements to it.
Don’t cancel out the hard work you put into your training by not looking at your sleep environment.