Get Some Zzzz
Improving amount + quality of sleep can lead to serious performance gains.
Elite and professional athletes know that habits off the court (or track/rink/field/etc…) are just as important as the actual sport training. This is because secondary lifestyle habits such as stretching, diet, stress, and sleep can heavily influence performance outcomes. These well trained, highly competitive athletes are known to sleep 10-12 hours per day. Some teams even utilize sleep centers for their athletes to promote better rest as well as study the rest the athletes get. In addition to a full night’s rest, coaches and trainers often ‘prescribe’ daytime naps between workouts. Focusing on sleep is more than a plush benefit of being pro; scientific research shows that extra shut eye positively effects performance.
Regardless of your athletic status, you can benefit from more sleep. Especially since it’s likely you do not get the recommended 8 hours a night. In fact, roughly 40% of adults barely manage 7 hours a night. Getting enough sleep allows the body to rest and recover from training stress. Getting enough sleep is just part of the equation, because, like with most things, quality trumps quantity. During deep sleep, the body produces human growth hormone (HGH) which (in the natural form) is responsible for assisting with tissue repair and fuel utilization. Being in a sleep deprived state can leave you mentally foggy, unmotivated, and susceptible to making poor training decisions which can lead to increased injuries. Athletes suffering from lack of sleep are more likely to produce extra stress hormone, cortisol, which impairs fuel utilization and appetite control. Studying your own sleep habits is becoming an easy task thanks to personal fitness devices. Phones, simple apps, and numerous watches can track how long you sleep for and some can even tell you the quality, or restlessness of the time you spend sleeping. Becoming more in tuned with your sleep status and habits is a beneficial task.
Simple advice: sleep more! Easier said than done. Most recreational athletes do not have the luxury of day time naps or 12 hour nights, but there are a few things you can do to increase shut eye.
Here are tips I use to improve my sleep:
Start a bedtime routine. This helps your body recognize when it is time to start ‘shutting down’.
Avoid screen time before bed. Okay I’m the worst at this, but I am trying to improve…
Set a bedtime and stick to it.
Avoid caffeine after noon. Hard to do, but so helpful!
Avoid late, heavy meals. Eating dinner before 7pm is very helpful!
Use earplugs and a sleep/ eye mask.
When I’m home, blackout curtains!
Listen to a ‘sleep wind down’ on Headspace.
Have a light bedtime snack of carbohydrates and fats to promote comfort and satiety. I like to have an evening steamer (see recipe below) and/or a bag of popcorn.
Have a Swisse Sleep Supplement.
Let’s discuss that last tip for a moment. What makes a good bedtime snack? One of the best might just be a warm cup of cocoa. Flavanols found in cocoa can lead to increased cognitive function which can help athletes wake feeling mentally stimulated, able to comprehend training data, and hit performance measures. While struggling to increase sleep, cocoa flavanols may help act as a Band-Aid to keep mental levels high during times of fatigue and low sleep. Not only can cocoa potentially assist those struggling with getting enough sleep, but a warm cup before bed can actually improve your chances of getting to sleep. The verdict is still up for debate on why this happens, but popular thought is that cocoa is simply comforting, calming, and promotes a sense of joy which aids in the body relaxing and therefore more likely to drift off to sleep.
Here’s a recipe to try tonight:
1 cup milk (whole milk or unsweetened nut milk)
1 scoop Cocoa (I used Cocoa Elite Unsweetened Cocoa)
1 scoop Collagen Peptides
1 tbsp Maple Syrup
1 tsp Mucuna Powder
¼ tsp Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Lavender
Gently heat the milk in sauce pot while whisking in all other ingredients. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the lavender to seep into the milk. Strain and sip slowly to promote relaxation an hour before bedtime.