We know that sleep is a crucial factor in performance, we also know that some people really struggle to get a good nights sleep and it could simply be down to their “Sleep Hygiene”.
We are not just referring to your evening habit of brushing your teeth or having a shower.
“Sleep hygiene” is the term used to describe the habits and rituals you have around bedtime and sleep. It is up to you if you practice good or bad hygiene during this time. There are several reasons why you should work on establishing good sleep hygiene that can all have hugely positive effects on your health. These habits will support a good nights sleep and prevent you from laying awake, tossing around and waking up tired and exhausted.
This can be especially true for athletes who challenge their body and mind on a daily basis. Decent sleep hygiene will help the nervous, as well as the musculoskeletal system, to recover and recharge overnight.
Studies have shown that “inadequate rest impairs our ability to think, to handle stress, to maintain a healthy immune system and to moderate our emotions. In fact, sleep is so important to our overall health that total sleep deprivation has been proven to be fatal: lab rats denied the chance to rest die within two to three weeks. Other typical effects of sleep deprivation include heart disease, hypertension, weight gain, diabetes and a wide range of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.”
Considering that a CrossFit athletes immune system might already be a bit suppressed by daily training, the reasons listed above show clearly how important a good night’s sleep is for our overall health.
So what can you do on a daily basis to support a good quality of sleep?
A good sleep routine is not only created in the evenings. It already starts with your behaviour throughout the day:
- Make sure you get some sunshine during the day. Our circadian rhythm and our sleep-wake cycle are closely connected. Exposure to sunshine during the day will help the brain understand that it’s supposed to sleep when it’s dark.
- Limit naps during the day except for short power naps (max 20-30 minutes).
- Watch what you eat and drink. Avoid going to bed with a full stomach or drinking lots an hour before going to bed. Stay away from caffeine
or similar stimulating substances from noon onwards.
- Try not to have your final training session close to the time that you are planning on going to bed.
Furthermore, there are several other things you can do to support quality sleep:
- Develop a bedtime routine such as taking a warm bath, meditating, reading a relaxing book, and go to bed at the same time.
- Limit screen time and blue light exposure at least one hour before going to bed as this will trick the brain into daylight exposure and wake you
- Create the “perfect” sleep environment. Make sure you sleep in a completely dark and cool room (16-18c) and eliminate noise. If completely silence is uncomfortable, using “white noise”. It might be useful to also leave anything that might wake you up again (mobiles, TV, books) out of the room.
- Sounds logical but is often underestimated: find the right mattress and pillow for you.
So how is your sleep hygiene? Can you optimise your sleep or are you doing already everything to wake up energised and ready to smash anything that life throws at you?
Gwen Sona, Progrm Coach