Sleeping is the most underrated recovery tool in the game. The average person will spend 1/3 of their life sleeping. If you want your life (and your training) to be instantly better you should start treating your approach to sleeping with the same seriousness as your approach to training. The below list is in the recommended chronologic order.
Quick Facts on Sleeping…
- Regulates endocrine system (extremely important for a demanding training program)
- Better mood
- Increases cognitive ability
- You will get better at sports, fact.
- Live longer (not sure if this last one is true but it’s definitely not false)
Your 5 Step guide to sleeping better
Ditch the TV/Smartphone/Videogames 60minutes before bed.
Artificial light from smartphones, tablets, and TVs actually suppress the sleep hormone melatonin and stimulates your brain to be more active due to sensory overload. This will make falling sleep much more difficult.
Two tablespoons of almond butter on a celery stick + One tbsp of flaxseed oil as a chaser. (Shout out to author Tim Ferris for this little tip)
Three notes here. First, Some people will wake up after 8 hours of sleep and still feel like crap. This most likely due to low blood sugar making you feel sluggish. Quick snack prior to bed will help change that. Second, Tons of studies out there show that hormones function/regulate more efficiently with a diet high in healthy fats. RECHARGE your endocrine system! This exact snack will give you roughly 8-9 grams of BOTH polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Third, Flaxseed oil is high in alpha-linolenicacid (ALA). ALA helps fight inflammation and repair damaged cell walls. Long story-short..the best pre-bed snack ever for athletes? Probably.
Five minutes (minimum) of static stretching…then go to bed.
Disclaimer: Please don’t just hop into a static stretch cold. Do some kind of active warm up for a couple minutes before cranking away. Static stretching helps calm the sympathetic nervous system (Fight or flight response) while promoting your parasympthatic nervous system (Rest and Digest). Much more complicated than it sounds but extremely important in helping your body get into a resting state. This will help lower heart rate, calm your breathing, and put a little tranquility into your body.
Read a book for 10minutes (minimum)
If you are using a kindle or tablet make sure you have it on the appropriate dimmed settings or this will be counterproductive. Fiction is preferred here. 2 reasons. First, most of us are reading non-fiction to learn or get better at something, this could result in staying up later than intended and making the day harder to put behind you. Second, Fiction can allow your mind to wonder elsewhere, forget about the worries of your day or tomorrow while sparking your creativity and imagination promoting better sleep. Dream on.
Going to be honest hear before my meditation homies and yoga peeps get on me. There is a LOT I could write here. But I’m not. I was even going to make this one optional. But I’m not. An easy and simple breathing pattern that will make a dramatic difference in decreasing the time between shutting your eyes and actually falling asleep is as follows: Inhale through your knows counting 1-2-3 slowly then exhale counting 1-2-3-4-5. Repeat as many times as needed. Good luck getting past 15 of these.
Get Better at Sleeping, Get Better at Life.
Joe Drain CSCS