If there has been one topic that keeps popping up all over the web and in seminars over the last 1-2 years it has been about the effects of sleep and its impact on your performance. We have finally discovered and have taken note of how sleep affects our performance and recovery. This is something I heard Craig Smyth a friend of mine say way back in about 1988. Craig was a highly ranked Australian triple jumper and trained with Gary Honey. He would say that when he was in hard training he needed at least 8 hours sleep per night and he would try and get 10 hours at least one night per week.
This phenomenon is not new and has been around for years but it appears it is being taken more seriously and studied a lot more. I don’t have all the scientific evidence but I do know what affects me personally and the athletes I have coached. A couple of big factors I notice when I travel is that I often sleep really well even though I am in a strange bed. Here are the 4 main things why I sleep so well in good hotels.
1. Completely blacked out room. This is something that I have never had in my own apartments in Australia. I have always had a fair amount of light coming into my room. However the hotels predominately have black out blinds and they make a huge difference.
2. Clean crisp white sheets. There is something very calming and soothing about jumping in bed with crisp white sheets. If you are still sleeping with old or polyester types sheets throw them out now and get yourself some good white cotton sheets.
3. A cool to cold room. I like to sleep in really cool to nearly cold rooms and I pretty much sleep with a fan on all year round and in the summer I have the air con on all night. And when in a hotel like the one I am in now I set the temperature to a cool 18-19c for the night. I still like to sleep under the sheets and or a light blanket so I like the room cold. I also sleep naked to stay cool and comfy. Read more here about this.
4. A comfy bed. Beds can vary so much and its difficult to buy a bed that you are going to be really happy with by just lying on it in a shop. However you can at least lay on as many beds as possible to see what feels best. The better bed places will help you select a bed that is more suitable to your body type and preferred comfort. I always thought I preferred a much harder bed but I have come to realise that I like a medium but firm bed. One that will still take the shape of my body but not move around when I move. More here
There a plenty of other factors affecting your sleep but the above are easy changes to make.
There is definitely plenty of other things you can do to help you fall asleep but a lot of them are trial and error for each individual. The other big areas for getting enough sleep are that your cortisol levels come right down, you release growth hormone and testosterone for tissue repair. These are vital for everyone but especially for athletes in hard training. I have seen first hand one athlete that struggled to go to bed early as he needed to wind down from his day at work and his hard training session and was not getting enough sleep. These was very evident at the end of his training cycle where he would become basically exhausted and sleep even less.
Alcohol tends to affect my sleep based on consumption. I know what the experts will be saying right now, however its my one vices and I like a few glasses of wine in the evening. However, if I step of over the mark and have a bit to much to drink I can sometimes find myself waking up in the middle of the night pretty wired. I have always assumed it was the sugar kicking in, but I have since read that your body goes into its deep sleep cycle very quickly after alcohol missing out on the REM cycle thus waking up after the alcohol starts to where off. The body can not then make the adjustment back to the deep sleep cycle and you are left with a restless nights sleep. The advice is to have your last drink at least an hour before going to bed to allow the alcohol to metabolise and also make sure you are rehydrating. The other thing I use is magnesium. I started using magnesium years ago after a friend suggested I should try it to help me sleep when I was pretty stressed with work. I remember it being very beneficial then but I stopped taking it. I have recently started taken it again and have found it to be beneficial. Check out some of the benefits here.
A few other things to try next time you hit the hay.
Stop using mobile phones and tablets at least 30mins prior going to bed.
Turn of the TV at least 30mins before you go to bed.
Use a foam roll or roll on larger ball around your gut to help the para sympathetic nervous system calm down.
Read a book
Take a cool shower before bed.