If you are a typical athlete, sleep could be the most neglected recovery tool in your training regime. Improving the quality and duration of your nightly slumber is one of the best ways to boost your performance and avoid burnout, over-training and injury.
Reduced quality and quantity of sleep has been linked to:
- increased risk of injury;
- lowered immune system;
- reduced athletic performance;
- decreased mental function;
- increased risk of obesity;
- fatigue and lethargy;
- low mood.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Generally speaking, if you are getting any less than 8 hours a night of sleep, your sleep is regularly interrupted, you have a small child or two to take care of or you feel tired during the day, chances are you are not getting enough sleep. And the more active you are as an athlete, the more restorative sleep you will need.
Some sports watches are capable of monitoring your sleep and can provide useful information about the duration and type of sleep you are getting. It can be very illuminating to look at the data output from your device. Even if you think you are getting enough sleep, you may be surprised to discover that the quality of your sleep is not quite enough to sustain your training load.
Tips to get a good night's sleep
- Establish a regular schedule of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
- Keep your bedroom quiet and dark, and ensure the temperature is to your comfort level.
- Limit your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Exercise every day, but not too late in the day.
- Don't expose your eyes to blue light (TV, computer and phone screens) in the two hours leading up to bedtime.
- If you have insomnia or other sleep issues, obtain professional advice.
- Consider trying sleep aids such as melatonin, ginkgo biloba, Valerian root, magnesium, herbal teas with chamomile, soak in a lavender scented bath, or have a warm shower.
- Try some gentle yoga, relaxation or meditation before bed.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, reading or listening to relaxing music or simply closing your eyes and recalling pleasant memories can help. Try focusing on your breath as you relax each muscle group in turn.
- Make sure you are getting enough electrolytes, especially if you exercise hard. Bix Recovery contains a great balance of electrolytes and vitamins, including magnesium which is proven to help insomnia.