How to Improve Sleep Quality for Faster Recovery
Sleep is one of the most underestimated contributors to our performance in the box. This is when your body dedicates most of its resources to recharging and recovering.
The quality of your sleep matters. This isn't just about how long you spend in bed, but how you use your sleep to facilitate recovery. Good quality sleep improves muscle recovery, balances hormones and boosts energy. Keep reading to find out our essential tips to maximise these benefits.
Get Into a Routine
How often do you sit in front of the TV, flicking through your phone, right up until you go to bed?
The light from your phone disrupts your body's natural circadian rhythm. This is the process by which your brain releases melatonin, a hormone that lets your body know when it's time to switch off.
Instead of checking in with social media late at night, focus on creating a routine to promote sleep. This is especially important if you tend to lie awake for a long time after going to bed.
Here are a few things to try:
- Switch off your electronic devices an hour before you plan to go to bed,
- Reflect on your day - either with someone else, or in a journal,
- Listen to music,
- Read a book,
- Have a bath or shower - just make sure it's not too warm or cold.
Train - but Not Too Close to Bedtime
Research suggests people who exercise regularly tend to sleep better.
If you're reading this post, chances are you've got that bit nailed.
That said, it's also thought that exercising too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect. Research is unclear - so experiment, and figure out what works best for you.
If you're training late at night, and find it hard to fall asleep, try moving your session to earlier in the day.
Reduce Caffeine Consumption
Coffee is awesome. That, we can't deny. But it's best to avoid caffeine late at night to prevent sleep interference.
Again, this involves experimenting to find out how long you need to avoid it for. We're all different in terms of caffeine sensitivity. Some people can get away with a latte in the afternoon, others need to limit it to a couple of small cups during the morning.
Supplements for Sleep
Insomnia, and poor quality sleep, are two of the main symptoms of magnesium deficiency. This is a common nutrient missing from the typical diet - and is essential for post-WOD muscle recovery.
If you're not already, supplementing with magnesium can improve both sleep and performance. Take it around 30 minutes before you go to bed, and it should help you drop off faster - as well as contributing to sleep quality.
Create the Right Environment
We've already discussed the importance of switching off your electronic devices, but you can go even further than that.
In an ideal world, we'd sleep in total darkness. Street lights, and lights on devices in the bedroom, can all disrupt sleep. Get rid of extra lights from the bedroom before you turn in for the night, and invest in some decent black out blinds. This is especially true in summer, when it doesn't go dark until late, and starts to get light around 4am.
You should also try to keep your bedroom cool - as this is another cue used by your body to prepare for sleep. Keep it well ventilated, and aim for a temperature no higher than 18 degrees.
Wake Up Right
Sleep quality isn't just about what we do before we sleep, but how we wake up too. A sleep cycle lasts for approximately 90 minutes - and you should aim to wake up as close to the end of a cycle as you can.
Think about what time you need to wake up, then work back in blocks of 90 minutes to figure out when you should go to bed.
If you can, try to wake up as naturally as possible (i.e. without an alarm clock). We know this isn't always practical - so experiment with alternative options.
Sunrise alarm clocks are a growing trend - and they wake you up gradually by simulating a sunrise. This works especially well when combined with blackout blinds. Many of these alarm clocks work in reverse when you go to bed too - simulating a sunset to promote the release of melatonin.
What's your sleep quality like? Is this an area of your recovery you need to work on? Give some of these tips a go, and see how it affects your WOD times!