How Athletes Can Improve the Quality of Their Sleep
Sleep science shows that sleep is more than just downtime. Sleep is required for maintaining normal health, optimal physical and mental functioning, learning, memory consolidation, hormonal balance, growth and development, performance, and emotional regulation.
Athletes, of course, know that getting enough sleep is important, but how can they improve their quality of sleep? We are defining an athlete as someone who has been training to perform in a sport or activity.
What does it mean to sleep well? To "sleep well" means getting the amount of sleep that allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for your day. This is quality sleep.
It's not really the amount of sleep that matters, but rather it's making sure that athletes have quality sleep on a consistent basis.
Sleep Hygiene is the Key to Sleep Quality
There are several steps athletes can take to improve their quality of sleep. Athletes should be focusing their efforts on good sleep hygiene and managing their stress levels so they can get to bed earlier and wake up feeling refreshed.
Sleep hygiene is the first step in improving your sleep quality. What is sleep hygiene? It's a routine that helps you prepare for bedtime and sleep. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/what-is-your-sleep-hygiene
#1 Do Not Exercise Before Bed
The first step to improving your sleep hygiene is not exercising before bedtime. Exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep, causing a person's body temperature to rise later, heart rate to remain increased, both of which making it difficult to fall asleep.
#2 Do Not Exercise Too Hard Too Often
Some athletes erroneously try to improve their quality of sleep by exercising really intensely daily. While daily consistent daytime exercise may help you sleep better during the night, daily high-intensity workouts can also make it hard for athletes to get a good night's rest. The body needs adequate recovery from high-intensity exercise, including low-intensity exercise, mobility, stretching, and deep breathing.
#3 Add Regular Massage
An effective way to improve your quality of sleep is by getting regular massages. The massages can lower your blood pressure and reduce the stress in your body.
#4 Add White Noise
Another way to improve sleep quality is by listening to white noise while you sleep. Exposure to soft, low-frequency noises, such as a fan or air conditioner, can reduce the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep.
#5 Reduce Bedroom Light and Temperature
Another sleep hygiene factor is the amount of light you are exposed to before bedtime, as well as the temperature of the bedroom. Darken and cool your bedroom prior to bedtime. Ideally, remove electronic devices from the bedroom, including TVs, computers, tablets, and phones that aren't put on "do not disturb."
#6 Keep a Journal
Athletes can improve their quality of sleep by keeping a journal. A journal doesn't have to be anything complicated and can be as simple as some paper and a pen. If you are having trouble sleeping or just want to make note of what worked and what didn't, keeping a sleep log could provide some insight. Start with a simple notebook and write down the time you went to bed, what time you woke up, how long it took for you to fall asleep, and how many times you got up through the night.
#7 Get Comfortable and Stay Comfortable
Obviously, comfort while sleeping is a huge factor. Sleeping on a pillow that is right for your physiology (height and frame) as well as how you sleep plays a huge factor in nighttime activity maintaining comfort. We offer down and feather pillows that offer sleepers the type of pillow that is right for their bodies and their preferred sleeping comfort, whether that's upon the pillow or sinking into the pillow. Our perfect pillow quiz walks you through the selection process to customize the right pillow for you.
#8 Avoid Late-Day Caffeine
Additionally, for an athlete who wants to improve their quality of sleep is to avoid caffeine. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, since it can make you feel wide awake at night, as well as elevate your heart rate, thereby preventing the quality sleep required for athletic recovery.
To stay on track, athletes need to create a consistent sleep schedule and make sure they're getting plenty of low-intensity exercise during the day, as well as managing stress levels.
Conclusion: If these strategies work for athletes, they work for non-athletes too. Achieving low-intensity exercise as the bulk of a person's fitness is helpful for increasing the quality of sleep, as well as reducing stress, avoiding caffeine, getting comfortable, and reducing the light and temperature of the bedroom.
--> pubmed: 22691801 -- "Sleep plays an essential role in athletic performance and recovery"
--> webmd.com -- "Understanding effective sleep hygiene is one of the best ways to improve your quality of sleep"
--> psychcentral.com: "10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Sleep"
--> mayoclinic.org: "Healthy Sleep"
--> verywellhealth.com: "Exercise and Sleep"