Easy Tips & Tricks To Improve Your Sleep (And Why It Matters!)
Sleep. We're all doing it. But can we do it better? The answer to this question is probably a YES for most of us.
Sleep is one of the most (the most?) powerful recovery tools there is. When the body is sleeping, both the brain and the body are able to rest. We wake up feeling more energized, our bodies recharged. So of course, the better you sleep, the better your body and mind can recover.
Muscle recovery is stimulated during sleep, as restorative functions like blood flow and hormone releases take place. Science aside, I know if I have just one bad night's sleep, I'm going to feel it in my body for the next few days (especially at practice).
Working out intensely everyday combined with any type of sleep problems in athletes can cause athletic performance to decrease. While our bodies love and crave it, it's not always easy to get that deep, restorative sleep that we require. Busy schedules, wandering minds, and the new season of that one show (*cough cough* guilty), all get in the way at some point.
I definitely felt changes in my ability to sleep well as I got older and it's been a source of frustration. If you've been around here for awhile or read this Training Update post, you know I suffer from a severe headache disorder. Without much of a specific remedy or cure, maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule is one of the best things I can do to lessen the severity of outbreaks.
Luckily I've learned some techniques and created some habits that facilitate sleep recovery for athletes. Not only does maintaining these routines make me feel physically better and stronger on the track, but mentally ready to start and get through the day as well.
But don't take it from me; consider trying the 5 easiest ways to get better sleep and discover solutions for sleep problems!
1) Turn The Temperature Down To Help Fall Asleep
Sleeping in colder temperatures can actually help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. Our body temperatures naturally fall as we approach sleep, and an overly hot room directly negates this natural occurrence. As a result, falling asleep might be harder and the sleep less deep and restorative.
It's also thought that colder temperatures (60-68 degrees) stimulates melatonin production in the body. Which, if you didn't already know, is a naturally occurring substance that our body produces to help it fall asleep.
While simply boosting the AC might help you, there are other options to help you optimize your sleep. If you're prone to waking up in sweats, or aren't feeling recovered despite consistently getting good sleep, you might be looking for a solution.
Chili Technology has created a range of products that aim to solve sleep problems through cooling solutions. Their sleep system uses hydro-power (water) to regulate the temperature of your bed. It comes with a remote or a phone app (depending on which system you decide on) that helps you design your perfect temperature pattern.
Simply place the machine-washable mesh mattress pad on your bed and let the machine do the rest. I'm using this to take back my sleep as I've talked about on Instagram and Youtube. Stay tuned for updates on how it‘s helping me!
2) Feel More Rested By Setting A Sleeping Schedule
As simple as this sounds, its not always the easiest. It's so tempting to sleep in until noon on days without plans or stay up past midnight when you just have to see the next episode of the show you're binging.
P.S. If it does happen, don't beat yourself up for it.
But remember that not following a sleep and wake up schedule detracts from your body's ability to stay on it's circadian rhythm. A regular pattern of sleep helps you fall asleep earlier and better, because your body knows when the time is right. Without it, you might find yourself tossing and turning through valuable hours of sleep, ultimately not getting enough at night, and then nodding off during the day at the worst possible moment.
Also, research has linked it to certain health problems, like high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
3) Avoid Screens Close to Bedtime To Improve Sleep
Its become pretty normal to take your phone to bed with you or to watch TV in bed. But, there have been studies proving that the blue light from these screens can actually delay the body's production of melatonin (what helps you naturally fall asleep).
Our bodies are inherently programmed to be awake during the day, when there is sunlight, so extra blue light before bed is very likely to contribute to sleep problems. Some lights around the house can also cause this issue, but they do make blue light blocking bulbs that make falling asleep easier. Other ways to avoid blue light too close to bed are blue-light glasses and nighttime mode on devices.
The only true way to make sure its not affecting you? Lose the devices an hour before bed and read a book or write instead.
4) Putting Bookends On Your Day Helps Your Sleep Schedule
Am/PM routines take many different forms. And yours might change throughout the years. But one thing that everyone should try: putting "bookends" on the day. This helps you establish a routine and prepares your body and mind for taking on the day or getting a good night's rest.
Without a way to officially "end" the day, the mind might wander to things that happened earlier in the week, to the big meeting you have in the morning, or anything else that decides to pop into your mind and prevent you from falling asleep.
Ideas For "Bookending" Your Days To Help With Sleep Patterns
You might try 5-10 minutes of mediation to go through the things that happened in your day or what you're looking forward to. Actively going through these thoughts is a really good way to process things on your own terms, not when you're trying to fall asleep.
Try developing specific habits for your day bookends. This could be reading a book, a yoga routine, or writing in your gratitude journal. Anything that helps you wind down or gear up. Eventually your body will recognize these as a precursor to sleep time or the start of a day.
5) Make Your Bedroom A Sanctuary To Sleep Better
I'm a firm believer in the idea that the space you're in provides energy to your mood and mentality. I prioritize decorating and furnishing my spaces, even if I have to do it on a budget.
If your bedroom is a place you absolutely hate to be in, there's a high chance you're not going to sleep well there.
Fill your space with healthy indoor plants, photos of friends and family, a color scheme that soothes you, and anything else that makes you want to curl up in your bed just by looking at the bedroom. If possible, remove your work desk, TVs, or any other sources of stress and stimulation from that space. If you have to have them near the bed, (I've been in small apartments too!) try configuring a set up that is organized and and attractive to you.
6) Seeking Morning Sunlight Can Help Your Sleep
I love this sleeping hack because of how simple it is to do! Outside of a day where literally no sun is getting through, (which does happen sometimes), seeking sunlight first thing when you wake up is as easy as opening the blinds.
Why does seeking sunlight when you first wake up help you sleep better? Even though the sleep portion of your day is technically coming to an end, exposure to sunlight directly influences our circadian rhythms. Like I said in an earlier tip, avoiding blue light at night has the same inherent purpose as getting sunlight in the morning.
Regulate your circadian rhythm and teach your body that now is the time to wake up and get ready for the day.
Morning sun has such restorative powers and you might actually feel happier in the mornings and more energized if you take a few seconds to soak it in. Don't reach for your phone first, get that natural light and peace in before you check your messages!
I hope that some of these tips help you out if sleeping has been challenging for you. Even if it hasn’t been a noticeable strain on your lifestyle these tips for improving your sleep can still be extremelybeneficial.
All this talk of sleep has me ready for bed, how about you!? Before you head off to bookend your day, what other sleeping tips have worked for you? Please do let me know!