How to Optimize Your Sleep to Optimize Performance
Optimizing sleep is absolutely critical in order to optimize performance, and for the health of your body and mind. This article discusses a few simple strategies that you can implement to help you optimize your sleep. So that you can get the high-quality sleep you need to perform…
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep ranks alongside exercise and nutrition in terms of importance when it comes to optimizing your performance, improving your health, and achieving your body composition goals. It helps our bodies but also our minds recover. Keeping us healthy, happy, and focused on the challenges ahead.
Chronically bad sleep on the other hand can have a host of negative effects including fat gain, increased risk of illness, reduced focus, reduced sex drive, and hormone imbalance. But don’t worry – research has shown that all of these negative side effects can be reversed simply by correcting your sleep patterns and returning to adequate levels of sleep.
How do optimize my sleep?
There are two main areas you can focus on to optimize your sleep:
- Sleep routine
- Sleep environment
Creating a sleep routine
Our bodies don’t have an on / off switch so it helps to put a routine in place that uses environmental cues to tell your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep.
Here are some key points to help you create a good routine:
- Keep a regular schedule / our bodies love regularity. If you’re consistent with the times you go to bed and get up, your body will know when it’s time to release calming hormones to make you sleepy, and stimulating hormones to help you wake up feeling refreshed.
- Find a de-stressing mechanism / this is different for everyone so find something that works for you. It could be gentle stretching or yoga, light reading, deep-breathing, meditation, or even writing a brief plan for the following day. Read more about how to get your stress under control here.
- Have a bath or shower / warm water can help you relax after a long day. Again, however, only do it if it works for you.
- Don’t overdo the stimulants / namely alcohol and caffeine. A drink can be relaxing but more than one can prevent you from getting into a deep sleep. As can caffeine, which can stay active in your system for up to 6 hours – so avoid it late in the day.
- Avoid eating or drinking too much / a large meal before bed can impact your ability to fall asleep. So can going to bed hungry, however. Best practice is to have a balanced meal a couple of hours before bed. Limit fluids in the 2-3 hours before bed so your sleep isn’t interrupted by toilet breaks.
- Ditch the electronics / the blue light and mental engagement required means that digital devices like TV’s, computers, tablets, and phones stimulate your brain. Therefore, you should switch them off 30 mins before bed to allow your brain to relax and start producing melatonin.
- Don’t exercise too late / regular exercise is good for sleep, but intense exercise late in the evening can prevent you from getting to sleep.
Creating the right sleep environment…
Alongside a good and consistent routine, it helps to create an environment that is conducive to sleeping.
Here’s how to do it:
- Keep it dark / light inhibits melatonin production, whereas darkness stimulates melatonin production. Make sure your room as dark as possible at bedtime by blacking out the windows and dimming the lights before you go to sleep.
- Keep it tidy / a messy room can cause stress. Tidy up and make sure your bedroom is a nice place to be.
- Keep it cool / this comes down to personal preference but most people sleep best around 19-20 C (66-68 F). Find your favourite temperature and do your best to reproduce it each night.
- Keep it peaceful / sleeping can be difficult in noisy urban environments, especially if you’re not used to it. White noise can work well in these situations.
Sleep is critical for good general health, and for optimizing mental and physical performance. Therefore, it should be prioritized in order for you to reach your goals.
Most importantly control what you can to optimize your sleep – the routine and the environment. Prepare a routine to give your body the cues it needs to wind down. Be consistent as possible with your routine day-in-day-out. Combine that with an environment that is a haven for sleep and you’ll get the high-quality slumber you need.
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