Written by Coach Austin Current
Below, we are going to cover 6 different factors for improving your sleep. Each one individually can make an impact, but altogether they can change your sleep quality/quantity.
Keep the same wake and sleep times.
You do not need to be perfect, but we would recommend that you keep your wake time and sleep time within a 15-30 window each morning/night. This can help by setting your circadian rhythm and allowing for the proper rise of stress hormones in the morning and proper melatonin levels as you move into the evening. Movement and meal timing can also have an impact so do your best to create a routine that works best for your lifestyle and stick with it.
Timing and dosage.
Caffeine intake can be yet another cause of disrupted sleep. If consumed too late into the afternoon, it can have an impact on your ability to fall or stay asleep. A rough intake guide can be around 2-3mg/kg. For example, a 200lb (90.7kg) person would consume around 180-300mg of caffeine. Another important factor in caffeine consumption is knowing when to stop. The half-life of caffeine has shown to be around 6 hours ⏤ the length of time it takes for peak levels to be cut in half. The recommendations I have seen among other specialists and practitioners are generally around 7-9 hours before you plan on heading to bed. This means if you plan on heading to bed around 9 pm, then you should stop drinking caffeine from around midday to 2 pm.
Winding Down Before Bed
Ease your way to sleep.
One of the biggest challenges heading into bed can be your ability to actually fall asleep, or even feel tired as you lay down. An easy way to help this is getting in the habit of winding down as you move into your evening. For clients, we recommend that the hours leading into bed should be spent relaxing: reading a book, meditating, or going for a peaceful stroll around the block. It is common to watch TV. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but we would encourage you to lower the brightness levels on your TV and use blue-light-blocking software if possible (you can also wear blue-light-blocking glasses). Blue light can suppress the secretion of melatonin, the very signal we need to “become tired”.
Keep it cool, dude.
Keeping temperatures around 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be an agreed-upon range for getting restful, quality sleep. Also, a cooling fan can help create airflow and ambient white noise to help drown out any extraneous noises outside of your bedroom. If you can, a hot shower 1-2 hours leading into bed has been shown to improve your ability to fall asleep.
As dark as you can get it.
Light exposure at night has been shown to suppress the production of melatonin and can lead to interrupted sleep. If you can, we recommend some form of blackout blinds. If that is not possible for you then we suggest at least getting an eye mask to help keep the light out of your eyes as you’re falling asleep.
Training & Nutrition
Too little or too much can impact your sleep.
Ensuring your training and nutrition is set up in a way where you’re staying within your trainability and recoverability limits. If you are overtraining, you can stress out your physiological systems to the point where it does start to impact your sleep: falling asleep and staying asleep.
If your nutrition does not properly support the type of training you are doing the same thing can happen. You can place stress on those physiological systems and not give them the proper nutrients for recovery.
This is something we monitor very closely with our 1-on-1 coaching clients.
In conclusion, it is important to do your best on the 6 factors mentioned above. Your sleep will rarely be perfect, but you can definitely do your part and make it better. If you are someone who gets sleep anxiety (feelings of nervousness around not being able to sleep), we would encourage you to do your best to not attach any feelings toward the quality or quantity of sleep you get – trust me, we know that is easier said than done. Simply do your best to prepare yourself to rest in a dark, cool, relaxing environment. If you find yourself laying in bed awake staring up at your ceiling, it is advised to get out of bed ⏤ remaining in low light ⏤ and perform a relaxing task until you are ready to return back to bed to fall asleep.
Written by Coach Austin Current, BSc, CSCS, IFBB, Pn1