Probably one of the biggest factors in recovery and adaptation is the quality of your sleep. The quality of sleep isn’t just about the amount of time that we sleep—it’s also about the nature of our sleep. The optimum time to aim for is 8 hours if you are training, but you also need to consider factors such as comfort, warmth, light and quietness, as well as stress levels, that affect the quality of your sleep[i].
How do you make the most from your sleep? Well I might not be telling you any new information here. First of all, put any artificial lights away long before you plan on getting into bed. If you have to, and I mean have to, then look to getting filters that will reduce or remove certain lights from your vision. Try to put your phone down at least an hour before you go to sleep, this does the same for anything like television or your computer. Even if you typically fall asleep fast, you might still be disrupting your sleep by focusing on something later into the night.
The same goes for stress. You do really need to relax more before getting into bed. This could mean that you have some quiet, alone time before bed. Maybe that looks like a hot bath with Epsom salts. Maybe you meditate. Try to never go to bed in a bad mood, you’ll sleep poorly and wake up feeling the same. Chill.
Your environment will make a huge difference in the quality of your sleep too. Is it too noisy, can you reduce this at all? Will light disturb you, can you put up some light reducing blinds? Will you be too warm or too cold? Spend some time figuring out exactly how you like to sleep. Use tracking software on your phone to record the length and quality of your sleep, correlate this to the influences just mentioned to work out exactly what environment you need to sleep.
Cleanliness of your bed… yep, you need to sleep on clean sheets, with a supportive mattress. Dirt might disturb your breathing during the night, not to mention if you get some sort of bed bug infestation.
You can even extend this to cleanliness of your bedroom. A cluttered, disorganised room might provide the perfect environment for a bad night sleep. I’ll not go into much detail in this book, but you could consider reading up on Feng Shui[ii]. Again, it’s very little effort and could produce a positive result. Let’s be honest, even if it’s not backed by science, it won’t hurt!
Even consider having a separate napping routine. Getting a nap in after training might be the best way to promote recovery. Many professional sportspeople are now turning to a well thought out napping routine to gain the edge on their opponents. Factor in the same influences when creating your planned nap routine and test out how long you need. In most cases it is less than thirty-minutes.
A worthwhile note about napping, your boss might not approve of you doing it at work, although an argument could be made for increased productivity. Depending on how approachable your employer is, you could tentatively float this idea, emphasising that you will be able to work harder post-nap and that you can compensate for time lost by staying late. Better yet, if you can get away with it and then prove the results you could skip the conversation altogether. Sometimes an apology that brings good news is better than asking a question on deaf ears.
Whether you like this idea or not, there’s no harm is it in trying for a week or two, just to see how you feel? Much like your nutrition, sometimes you’ll have a bigger benefit from doing this than another person. This could be a massive game changer for you.
[i] For more information on the role of sleep in athletic performance visit: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/sleep-athletic-performance-and-recovery
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