One of the biggest influences on our physical, mental and emotional performance is the quality of our sleep, yet by many this is still a very neglected area of self care and preparation
For decades it’s been fashionable for people, especially those in high power business and leadership positions, to declare how little sleep they get and how early they get up to “get sh*t done!”. Yet many studies repeatedly show the long term physical and mental effects of sleep deprivation including,
- Mood changes
- Weakened Immunity
- Increased risk of accidents, especially when driving
- Raised blood pressure
- Issues concentrating and being creative
- Weight gain
- Heightened risk of heart disease
- Lowered sex drive
This healthline article goes into these issues in greater depth and with links to supporting studies CLICK HERE
None of these issues caused by lack of sleep are conducive to high performance in sport or business! So let’s end the BS of that getting less sleep is the key to success and focus on how we improve sleep quality and be more effective in all areas of our performance!
Firstly we need to create an environment that allows us to sleep effectively,
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible at sleep time, so blackout blinds and any artificial light eliminated (many alarm clocks now allow you to turn their display all the way off)
- Quiet, use a white noise machine if needed
- At the right temperature, often this is cooler than standard room temp, ideally around 65-68F (18-20c), this helps our bodies relax and keep our core temp at the most efficient level for sleep
- Good quality mattress and pillow, this is a great area to really invest in!
We also want to set up good pre-sleep routines that help our mind and bodies prepare for sleep
- Turn off any electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime
- Use night shift and dark mode on your phones, tablets and laptops where possible
- Use blue light blocking reading glasses
- Read (a real book) just before or when we first get into bed
- Meditate (this can be done any time during the day)
- Take a warm shower 1-2hrs before bedtime
- When you wake up experience real sunlight where possible, a 5min walk outside, eating breakfast outside or by a window
Things to avoid that affect sleep quality
- Caffeine after mid-afternoon
- Checking emails/messages ect in bed, especially anything that might emotionally trigger us or make us start thinking about work
- Exercise close to bed time, if you have to do this, follow with a hot shower to lower your core temp
- Staying up past our initial drowsiness, this leads to that “second wind” which is actually the release of growth hormone that wakes us back up again. To avoid this we need to be asleep when the GH release happens
- Sleeping in, laying in bed on your phone, ideally get up and get active!
- Overly long or repeated naps during the day, while one 20min power nap can have great health benefits, repeated or longer naps can negatively affect your sleep
If you do find yourself struggling to sleep don’t fight it, instead
- Do a meditation/take slow and deep breaths while clearing your mind
- If you have something on your mind that you can’t move past, write it down so you can let it go and focus on it when you wake up, this one has really helped me!
- Avoid looking at the time, this just tends to create anxiety making it harder to sleep, instead focus on breathing and clearing your mind, and/or focussing on things you enjoy and that make you happy
- Read, I often find as soon as I start reading I feel sleepy again
The length and quality of your sleep have a proven and direct relationship with how energized you will be, physical performance in sports and mental acuity and performance. At least 90 minutes of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep nightly is correlated with better short and long term memory retention and performance.
It’s time to drop the outdated macho BS about how little sleep you can survive on, and instead make sure to set yourself up to thrive by treating sleep length and quality, just as importantly as we do our diets and training regimens!