Photo by Alison Gamble
Sleep is an essential part of any recovery regiment, but it’s often the part that is most neglected. We put our energy into nutritious meals, proper hydration, supplements, and other recovery aids, but neglect nature’s own recovery aid: sleep! Without restful, quality sleep, we lose the edge in a number of performance measures. Focus, speed, strength, accuracy, explosiveness, and response time all take a hit when we miss out on zzz’s, setting us up for lackluster workouts and even injuries.
Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your hormonal system and metabolism, cutting into the benefits you should be getting from your workout. Too little quality sleep coupled with a physically taxing training program can lead to serious health consequences including hormonal imbalance, suppressed immune system, and retention of body fat.
Everyone is different when it comes to how much sleep is enough to maximize recovery, but most people fall somewhere between 6-9 hours. As a starting point, throw it back to when mom was in charge of your schedule and stick to a consistent bedtime and wake time. However much sleep you get, make it the best possible quality with these tips!
Create a peaceful sleep space.
Nothing feels better than waking up from a restful night of sleep. Set yourself up for it by creating your own little hibernation den. A cool, dark, quiet space is ideal. Invest in blackout curtains and avoid glowing clocks and electronics, consider a white noise machine or sleep meditation app, and assess whether your mattress is adequately supporting your sleep. There are plenty of mattresses on the market specifically designed for athletic recovery.
Fix your bedtime routine.
Binging on TV right up until the moment you go to bed isn’t going to help prepare your mind or body for restful sleep. Creating a ritual around bedtime can be immensely helpful, especially for those who have a hard time initially falling asleep. Try these suggestions for a screen-free bedtime routine:
• Take a relaxing shower or bath.
• Turn off electronics 30 minutes before sleeping.
• Read or write in a journal.
• Engage in mindful breathing exercises or meditation.
Adjust daytime habits.
Take an honest look at your caffeine consumption. Too much caffeine throughout the day (including coffee, tea, and pre-workout supplements) or too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep. If you train close to bedtime, your workouts could put a damper on sleep quality. Generally speaking, vigorous exercise at any point of the day is good for sleep, but for some people, exercising too close to bedtime (within 3-6 hours) can hinder sleep. Give yourself enough time to unwind after your evening workout.
Like everything related to training, it’s not just about quantity—quality of sleep is just as important. Give sleep the respect it’s due to not only ensure better rest, but also achieve those training gains you work so hard for.