Sleep is important to us for a number of reasons; concentration, performance and general well-being, to name a few. However for athletes, it goes way beyond that- muscle is broken down in the gym, nourished in the kitchen and rebuilt whilst you’re sleeping. Research has suggested that getting to bed early and having a good night’s sleep reduces your appetite and cravings for calorie-dense foods.
Reduce Exposure To Light
Our circadian rhythm governs when we feel ready to sleep by controlling the melatonin levels in our body. This circadian rhythm is heavily influenced by light, especially blue light, therefore minimising exposure to it, especially around the evening will minimise disruption of our circadian rhythm, thus improving the duration and quality of our sleep.
Sleep In A Dark Room
Blackout blinds or curtains (even both); turning all lights off, turning items off standby and even using an eye mask will all help here. Also try to keep the lights down when/if you get up during the night, use the minimum light you need to get up and move around safely as this will make it easier for you to fall back to sleep.
Put Down The Gadgets
The blue light from your iPad/laptop/phone screens will minimise the body’s melatonin production which will tell the body that it’s not yet time for sleep. This doesn’t mean pick up the kindle or eBook, though, unless they don’t have their own light source – as light from these has exactly the same effect as light from other gadgets.
Install F.lux On Your Computer
This reduces the blue light emissions that suppress melatonin as we mentioned above by warming up your computer screen to match your lighting, plus it’s free!
Low leptin and leptin resistance are strongly linked to reduced sleep quality and duration. This can either be done using a leptin supplement or by increasing the number of sweet potatoes, squash and other starches in your diet.
Monitor Your Thiamine Intake
A deficiency of thiamine has a big effect on sleep patterns. So, I apologise in advance, but this means more bacon! Sunflower seeds, multi-vitamins and numerous pork products are also high in thiamine.
Consider Supplementing In Taurine
Research suggests consuming taurine plays an important role in brain function, specifically in regards to the neurotransmitter GABA, which activation of is linked to feeling sleepy. You can also increase consumption of taurine by eating more animal hearts… fun! I know which option I’ll take…
Keep A Low Temperature
Stop turning over and being unable to sleep because you’re too warm, keep your room cooler and have a snug duvet for improved sleep. Optimal temperature is around 65 ° F or 18° C.
Limit Large Meals
Don’t consume nicotine, alcohol or caffeine too close to bed (yes that includes that pre-workout, although Myprotein does make a caffeine free pre-workout). Also try to avoid large meals late in the evening as they can keep you awake whilst you digest them, or cause heartburn. Night time snacks are fine, for example, a banana, a small turkey sandwich, or granola with milk or yoghurt.
Stick To A Routine
Try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, if your work and rest days vary too much you can experience jet lag like symptoms. Also, try and avoid excess sleeping in even on weekends!
Make sure you’re smart with naps and try to limit them to 15 or 20 minutes in the early afternoon, so they don’t disrupt your sleep at night time.
So there we go, try implementing at least some of these to improve the quality and duration of your sleep and reap the benefits of it in the gym!