Let me start with the obvious:
Sleep is the cheapest form of Recovery and Regeneration.
No pill or food can replace this. And yet, people neglect this. People abuse it. And that means poor performances, increased chances of injury, foggy brains and un-productivity, post-lunch crashing, bad moods & tempers, weight gain, bad drivers… I could go on.
Oh, did I mention bad drivers? That lady who cut you off today could be a mother who is severely sleep deprived! Have compassion!
I wrote about sleep for the past 10 years. Here are the top articles:
Sleep cycles are complex. I received a FitBit Alta + HR for Christmas, and FitBit likes to define sleep in 4 stages (images below):
You don’t have to buy a FitBit, but you need a Fitness Tracker device, or Sports Wearables, with heart rate (HR) capabilities to monitor the 4 different cycles. Obviously, your HR changes during these 4 phases.
Using an iPhone or Android on your nightstand or mattress only tracks movement and restlessness. You need to capture the HR for more accuracy.
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Without repeating myself over the 10 years or so, I urge everyone to get at least 6 or 7.5 or 9 hours of sleep, as long as you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, which is the light sleep.
Don’t wake up to an alarm during REM sleep or deep sleep, if you can help it. I rather wake up 30 min earlier than my alarm, but that rarely happens :)
You need a minimum of 3 hours to ensure you get the deep sleep early in the night, which is when growth hormones are released to repair your body. You also need REM sleep, and the last 4 hours of your sleep is where testosterone is released. Teenage boys and Men will know what I mean, right Woody? I’m talking to you!
So don’t panic if you have to sleep 4.5 hours as a one-off to catch an early flight. Just make sure you get some deep sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep.
Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
I have tons of ideas, some work, and some don’t, so your mileage may vary:
- Sprinters, take note: Speedwork may affect your sleep. Accept this CNS effect.
- NO COMPUTERS OR PHONES BEFORE BED. Try reading a book or magazine. Blue light from screens, phones, or artificial lighting blocks the brain’s production of melatonin, which is the chemical created by the brain to help people fall asleep! (This is also the reason why jet setters take melatonin to induce sleep for International flights going West to East)
- If you must work on your Windows PC computer late at night, try using f.lux. F.lux makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, which is warm at night, and like sunlight during the day.
Mac OS users are lucky, as this feature is built in their displays, called Night Shift (see settings below):
- Watch the alcohol. Too much may make you sleepy quicker, but it will disturb your light and REM
- Watch the caffeine & energy drinks. Make you last coffee or double espresso by 3pm, for example. (this is my rule)
- Have a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. Easier said than done, I know. But staying awake until 4am on a Saturday night will throw off your internal body clock.
- Invest in a good bed and pillows. $500 for a good mattress in not uncommon. I am surprised Athletes are not sponsored by Mattress companies!
- Cool down your bedroom before sleeping. Fresh air doesn’t hurt, especially in older buildings and castles made with Italian tufo or Tuff bricks. Those bricks could emit radon gas over time.
- Try a stretch routine or Microstretching. Yes, it is static stretching, but static stretching is not necessarily the evil the media portrays it to be.
- Try 2 tablespoons of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon raw honey, stirred into 1 cup of hot water before bedtime.
- Sleep masks or very dark curtains will help, especially during the summer when it’s light at 5am, like in Edmonton, Manchester UK, or even Moscow :)
- I like to eat before bed. Cottage cheese with a tiny amount of homemade jam is my favourite, as it contains slow releasing protein. It works for me, because I eat anything and everything.
If you have any other tips to help sleep, I’d love to hear it.