Getting the right amount of sleep is one of the most important habits you can develop as an athlete. Oftentimes, we can get caught up in getting the right pre-workout or protein powder, wearing the right workout gear, adhering to the best mobility program, etc. and we overlook one of the simplest, yet most effective methods of optimizing our body’s potential: sleep. Here are 5 easy ways you can help improve your sleep:
- Don’t eat a huge meal before you go to bed. Try to plan your last meal of the day at least 1-2 hours before going to bed. Eating a large meal close to the time you plan on falling asleep will cause your metabolism to fire up, which makes it difficult to fall asleep and sleep soundly.
- Take supplements to help you sleep better. Magnesium helps relax muscles and has been shown to reduce cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Having a protein shake before bed has been shown to positively impact sleep because it immediately starts rebuilding muscle and can take some of this stress off of your body while it’s trying to fall asleep. Finally, melatonin and Vitamin D have been shown to lead to better sleep.
- Establish a morning and evening ritual. We are creatures of habit and our bodies crave routine. Wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends!). Oversleeping or undersleeping, even just by 1-2 hours for a couple of days, can throw off our sleep patterns and make it difficult for our bodies to get good sleep. Also, establishing a routine in the evening will train your body when it is time to start winding down and make it easier to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
- Don’t look at any kind of screen an hour before bed. With the advent of technology, we are constantly glued to our phones, tablets, laptops, etc. It’s so easy for us to climb in bed and mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Instagram, or check our email before work the next day. Oftentimes, we quickly lose track of time and before we know it, at least half an hour has gone by of us staring at some kind of screen. Research has shown that the blue light from phones, computers, and tablets actually stimulates the mind, making falling asleep very difficult. Instead, try reading a chapter of a book before you fall asleep.
- Finally, make sure you have complete darkness in your room. As we are deep into the summer months, it takes longer for it to get darker outside. Therefore, if you are trying to go to bed at an earlier time (as you should be) then you might find it difficult to fall asleep if your room is light. To counteract this, invest in some blackout curtains (you can find these on Amazon, Walmart – really any home goods store).