Last week you learned about why sleep is so important to your performance, health and wellness. This week, I’m going to cover exactly HOW to get a good night sleep.
- Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time as much as possible every day of the week (including weekends). This will help keep your body’s clock regular.
- Ensure a good sleep environment; Room temperature should be between 18.5 and 23 degrees Celsius, (65F to 73F, with men generally liking it a little cooler). The room should be as dark as possible. Use blackout curtains or blinds, cover up any standby lights on electronic devices or better still, get them out of the room. An eye mask can assist with ensuring a dark environment and is something I have used for several years.
- Avoid electronic devices, especially smartphones, most e-readers, tablets and laptops for at least 1-hour prior to bed. As I wrote in Part 1, these devices emit short wavelength blue light. This stimulates your brain and prevents the release of melatonin. I can’t recommend enough, steering clear of these devices before bed. Just keep them out of the bedroom, full stop.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex (and when staying in a hotel, work at the desk and not in the bed). This eliminates non-sleep-related associations with the bed.
- Develop a soothing and consistent nighttime routine. Take an easy walk, take a hot bath, read (fiction) for a while and then go to bed. Following this sequence every night sets up a behavior chain that prepares the body for sleep. I have read a fiction book, as non-fiction will stimulate your brain more, every night for around half an hour for the past couple of years. It’s now part of my routine, and I’ve been able to work my way through some amazing books.
- Resolve daily dilemmas before going to bed. If something’s on your mind, decide a course of action, write it down, and then forget it until tomorrow.
- Once in bed, avoid watching the clock, even if you have to put it in a drawer. Worrying about what time it is will only create sleep-robbing anxiety, and it won’t add another minute to the night.
- Avoid all caffeinated drinks; coffee, tea, colas energy drinks and caffeinated foods in the afternoon or evening. Caffeine’s stimulant properties affect some people even 12 hours after consumption. And don’t forget that some medications interfere with sleep.
- Don’t consume alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime. Although alcohol can effectively promote sleep, the sleep is highly disturbed because of alcohol’s effect on sleep architecture.
- Stay away from big meals late in the evening. While the food may be great at the time, subsequent discomfort from a heavy meal will have a negative effect on sleep quality.
- Lastly, if you can’t fall asleep within approximately 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing for a while. Then, when you feel sleepy again, give the bedroom another try.
A big thanks to one of my athletes, Ian Dunican of Sleep4Performance. As weird as it sounds, I learned everything I know about sleep from Ian. The knowledge I gained from Ian was instrumental in this and my previous sleep article.