The beauty of self-improvement is the dozens of ways in which you can shape yourself into a new, improved, and healthier you. One of the simultaneously most difficult and conceptually simple ways of living healthier is to modify your sleep schedule.
So tuck yourself in, get into a better relationship with your alarm clock, and read on! Today, we look at the sleeping habits of arguably the healthiest people on the planet — athletes.
Stick to a routine. Waking up at the same time every day and going to bed at roughly the same time will help get your body into a routine. Helping condition your body to wake up and sleep at about the same time creates a rhythm and will ultimately serve to benefit you.
If you can get into the habit of a consistent wake up/sleep routine, over time, you will find that you will wake up easier, fall asleep easier, be in a better mood, be more alert, and perform better than before. A good sleep regimen is important, but be patient! Routines take time to change, but it’s time well invested.
We are creatures of habit, and as such, as we go through the steps of our routine, our body is soft-wired to a particular way of doing things. Your body will subconsciously get ready for the next step. It’s recommended to set up a bedtime ritual for yourself. For example, let’s say you want to be in bed by 10 p.m. Stop watching TV around 9, have a shower or go through your basic nightly hygiene routine, lay out your clothes for the next day, read a book, set your favorite alarm clock, and go to bed. Habits are not easy to start; it takes weeks to form a solid routine, but again, this is time well spent and invested toward a more restful sleep.
To The Sleep Cave. Creating the right place to sleep is key: Dark, quiet, and cool is best for an ideal sleeping environment. While standard curtains are well and good, too much light may get through. Blackout curtains are perfect for the bedroom.
The temperature in the room, depending on your particular preferences, should be somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
As far as noise goes, some may find it soothing to sleep in silence, perhaps with a pair of quality earplugs in. Other people may care to use white noise, using a mobile app to produce noise, perhaps playing some quiet music, or using an actual white noise machine.
Work it Out. It goes without saying that the elite athletes of the world train their bodies around the clock. While you may want to reconsider before you sign up for the next Ironman triathlon, incorporating a challenging exercise routine can do wonders for your sleep life. Even simple, lighter workouts like going for a walk before or after work can help you sleep deeper and better.
Goodbye, alcohol and caffeine! There’s no reason to panic. You don’t necessarily need to cut caffeine and alcohol out of your life altogether, but rather you may wish to consider re-thinking the way you have them.
While a cup of coffee following an evening meal can be tempting, some studies, specifically from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, recommend staying away from caffeine for six hours prior to bedtime. If you’re planning to hit the hay around 10 p.m., drink that last bit of caffeine before 4 p.m., per the AASM’s recommendations.
Alcohol is a depressant; this is common knowledge. However, the drowsy effects it has on the body tend to leave quickly as the evening wears on. As alcohol leaves your bloodstream and body, it can cause less restful sleep, resulting in a less comfortable rest and causing you to drag in the morning. Before you go for that last glass of wine before bed, stop and think, because it may not be as helpful as you believe!
How Long Should I Sleep? It’s long been thought by sleep scientists and medical doctors, alike, that the average adult needs about 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to prevent any long-term effects of sleep deprivation.
Making time for sleep seems counterproductive. After all, if you’re asleep, how can you do what you need to do for work, for your family, for your own mental health? However, if you consider the fact that longer sleep per night leads to a more alert waking life, better moods, and increased physical and mental performance, the investment is worth it. Again, it takes time to form good sleeping habits and perhaps even more time to see the benefits, but eventually, positive or negative, you will reap what you sow.
Take a Deep Breath. Falling asleep can seem easy on the surface, and for the most part, it is. However, there will be nights where something keeps you awake, such as emotional stress. Consider an easy breathing exercise when your head hits the pillow and your eyes close.
- Breathe in through your nose for six seconds. Think calm, relaxing thoughts. Feel your lungs fill with fresh air.
- Hold that breath for three seconds.
- Slowly release the air through your nose for six more seconds, letting your stress go.
- Repeat four times or more if necessary.
Shut it Down. It’s tempting to take your device to bed with you for a number of reasons. It could be to answer one last email or perhaps squeeze a quick game in before you finally drop off to dreamland, but this may be counterproductive.
While natural sunshine and light are good for you and assist in the sleep cycle, the artificial light of screens can have the opposite effect. As we mentioned earlier, the body naturally gets ready for the next step in a routine even if we’re not aware of it. By keeping those screens on at night, your body thinks it’s getting the natural light it needs and stops producing melatonin, which is an important hormone in getting you to fall asleep. Turn off that phone!