Sleeping well can be as valuable to an athlete as eating right and finding the right training regimen. The secret to getting good sleep is all about planning, preparation, and practice.
1. Prepare your bedroom.
Get drapes that block out street lights, put your blinking devices out of sight, and hide the glowing numbers on your alarm clock. Your body interprets these lights as a signal to stop producing melatonin, which is a key hormone that helps you sleep.
Set your bedroom temperature somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body likes sleeping in a cool, comfortable environment.
2. Avoid caffeine in the evening.
Don’t drink coffee or any other stimulant-enhanced drinks during the four hours before your bedtime (we’ll get to that next).
Some people need even more time without caffeine; if you’re having a hard time falling asleep, set a stop time for caffeine ingestion and see if you notice a difference.
3. Have a regular bedtime.
We are creatures of habit. With time and regular practice, your body will grow accustomed to a routine and will naturally start to prepare itself for sleep. Do your best to stick to a consistent schedule.
4. Develop a routine for getting ready for bed..
“Have a power-down routine each evening before bed,” writes Olivier Poirier-Leroy for YourWorkoutBook. “From an hour or half hour out from when you want to be asleep plot out the things you will do each evening before zonking out. Brush teeth. Read for twenty minutes. Prep clothes for the following day.
“Write in your journal. And so on. Doing this regularly will draw a clear connection in your mind and prime your body for a proper night’s rest. This will come especially handy when you are traveling and sleeping in a new environment. The routine will give you a sense of familiarity in the foreign.”
Make avoiding screens a part of that bedtime routine, too. The blue light that emanates from most electronic devices really throws the body’s melatonin production for a loop.
5. The bedroom is for sleeping.
You bedroom is your sleeping sanctuary. You can also…you know…in there, but keep it to those two things. Your body will come to recognize your sleep space and will quickly get into sleep mode if that’s all the space is being used for.
If you’re also doing work, watching television, eating, or surfing the net while you’re in bed, you’re sending mixed signals to your body. Don’t do that to yourself.
6. Refuse to use the snooze button.
Your body sleeps in cycles that last for more than an hour. When your alarm clock initially wakes you up, it cuts off the previous cycle, whether you got the full benefit of it or not. When you fall back asleep you’re telling your body that you’re starting a new sleep cycle, which can make you feel sluggish for hours.
Besides, having a consistent wake-up time is just as important as having a regular bedtime. By being consistent with your wake-up time, you can do a better job of homing in on the perfect bedtime.
7. Be cautious with naps
When you’re feeling tired and drowsy during the day, it can be very tempting to take a nap to give yourself an energy boost. You have to recognize that naps can affect your regular evening sleep routine.
If you are following the above recommendations and your body still seems to be telling you that you need more sleep, experiment with napping. If you go down this road, though, do your best to make naps either very rare or a regular part of your routine.