We’ve all heard sleep tips that can be tough to fit into our daily lives, from hiding electronics to avoiding alcohol. Here’s some more realistic advice on how you can get that all-important shut-eye:
- Aim to wake up at the same time every day. Keeping a consistent wake-up time maximises your quality (REM) sleep and reduces sleep latency. Avoid lie-ins since they disrupt your internal sleep cycle, leading to less sleep in the long run.
- As soon as you wake up, open your curtains. Even if you want to get back into bed for a bit, this early exposure to natural light keeps your internal sleep clock set. Perhaps position your alarm next to your curtains as a reminder to open them first thing, until it becomes a habit. In winter when the days are short, a light box can replicate morning natural light exposure.
- Keep naps short and before 5pm. 20 minutes is plenty – set a timer before you snooze to avoid throwing off your internal sleep cycle.
- Avoid Blue Light – use your phone’s night light/notification features. It’s best to avoid blue light for 2 hours before bed time. On iPhones, ‘do not disturb’ and ‘night shift’ can easily be accessed from the control center. Better yet, set an alarm for an hour before bed, then use this time to engage in quiet, restful activities. For athletes, maintenance exercises such as stretching and foam rolling are good options.
- Replace your afternoon coffee with a large glass of water. Caffeine is often relied upon for its energising effects, but consumption in the afternoon impacts your sleep. Water is a more effective substitute than you might think, since even mild dehydration impacts mood, energy levels, and ability to think clearly. Also remember that dark and milk chocolate can be high in caffeine.
- If you have to exercise late in the day, keep intensity in check. Intense exercise within 3 hours of bedtime is detrimental for sleep. When you plan your training week, aim to keep higher intensity sessions earlier in the day.
- If you’re hungry late at night, opt for easily digestible carbs. Aim to finish dinner several hours before bed. Avoid highly processed fat and sugars if snacking later on.
- Match each glass of alcohol with a glass of water. Alcohol makes you feel drowsier but reduces your quality of sleep. For those who want to avoid a complete alcohol ban, aim to drink a glass of water for each glass of alcohol before bed (and limit the number of glasses!).
- Have a shower before bed. The drop in body temperature promotes melatonin release, increasing drowsiness.
- Use an eye mask, blackout blinds, ear plugs or white noise app as required. Your room should be like a cave – cool, dark, quiet and comfortable.
Improve your sleep with Wattson Blue
You can use Wattson Blue to track your sleep quality and duration every morning, allowing you to reflect on the quality of your recovery from the day before. You can also sync your sleep from devices such as Oura ring and Apple Health. Over time, you can see how sleep affects your personal performance, mood and other metrics such as heart rate variability (chronic sleep deprivation has been found to reduce HRV), helping you to adjust your training and improve outcomes.
Featured photo by Monica Silvestre