Let’s Talk All About Sleep Hygiene!
Let’s talk about sleep… and making it a lot better. This has been a big one for me over the years, as we’ve worked on dialing in our sleep hygiene and making the best of every sleep situation, whether we’re crammed in the van, in a tent mid-thunderstorm, at a friend’s place, or actually at home (less common than I’d prefer!). Think about how you sleep right now. Are you waking up feeling well-rested? Are you getting between 7 and 10 hours of sleep per night? Are you waking up several times throughout the night? Are you regularly exhausted, hung over, or just plain uncomfortable at night?
(Now is a great time to bust out your journal and jot down a few notes about your sleep, since you’re probably reading this right after you’ve woken up, and how you slept is fresh in your mind.)
You’ve probably read at least one article about sleep habits in recent years. Sleep is, strangely enough, the sexiest habit of the last couple years. Sleeping more, and sleeping well, can improve your overall health, allow you to finally drop those last few pounds, regulate your hormones, improve your mood, and—most important for athletes—help you actually recover so you’re ready to train or race. So, a few lists for you, from bad to good to dealing with the nagging problems that most of us face.
Bad Sleep Habits:
- Eating or drinking alcohol close to bed
- Bringing the cell phone to bed
- Bringing work to bed—physically or emotionally
- Sleeping in a warm, light, loud bedroom
- Sleeping late on weekends, going to bed late on weeknights (anytime you try to ‘make up sleep,’ or regularly sleep 4 hours on weeknights and 10 on weekends)
- Going to bed at wildly different times every night
- Not having any kind of bedtime ritual / having trouble falling asleep
Best Sleep Habits:
Create a consistent sleep schedule and try to stick to it as best you can.
Cutting off eating/drinking 2 hours before bed.
Shut the box on work. Before you head to the bedroom for the night, try to ‘close the box’ on work for the day and switch gears. Listening to music, enjoying a TV show, or reading a couple chapters of a relaxing book can help get you out of the workday headspace. (This is where a sleep ritual is super helpful: done with work for the day, have a cup of ginger or chamomile tea, snuggle with kids/pets/partner, et cetera.)
Keep the bedroom for sleeping only, if possible. No phones in bed! Keep your phone in another room, preferably in Airplane mode or at least in Do Not Disturb.
Make your bedroom as cool as possible, ideally around 66 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool air makes for happier sleep!
Make sure you can sleep in total darkness, either with blackout blinds or a sleep mask, and if you’re sound-sensitive, do you have earplugs or a white noise machine
Have a good way to wake up. Sometimes, jolting awake to a loud bleep can throw off your entire day. Swap that out for either a light alarm that brightens the room gradually, or a song or tone that gradually gets louder and louder.
Skip the snooze button in the morning. 9 minutes is enough to get back into a deep sleep, and being woken out of it will make you feel groggier than ever.
Start the morning with your 5 minutes of yoga, rather than reaching for your phone right away. (5 minutes won’t change anything, we promise.)
Common Issues / Solutions:
Your partner needs it warmer/lighter/noisier than you do.
All of us have different sleep preferences, but don’t bully your significant other into meeting your sleep demands or needs. Rather, think about individual solutions: wear a sleep mask rather than getting blackout blinds, invest in noise-canceling headphones or earplugs or get a white noise machine rather than forcing complete silence; and if you run hot and she/he runs cold, consider two sets of blankets for the same bed, so you can stay comfortable under sheets while she/he snuggles under a duvet. (In extreme situations, two single mattresses pushed together make a queen-sized bed, without a mattress overheating issue.
You have kids / a dog / a loud neighbor.
Sleep disruptions happen, unfortunately. Eliminate ones that you can, like crating your dog or investing in obedience training; make your child’s room as sleep-boosting as your own; putting in earplugs to avoid the neighbor’s parties waking you up. But beyond that, work on training yourself to get back to sleep quickly, so you don’t waste even more time. A meditation app like Oak is great for this, since you can set it for a few minutes and let the guided meditation calm your mind.
You’re starving before bed, or when you wake up.
You might benefit from a half-serving of whey protein right before bed. It will help keep your blood sugar stable throughout the night, and won’t impact your ability to fall asleep the same way a normal snack would. (Similarly, a small glass of milk could do the trick!)
You overheat like crazy, all the time.
Look at when you’re training during the day. Some people run hot for hours after working out, and you might be one of them. If that’s the case, try to move your training to earlier in the day. If that’s not possible, make sure you’re cooling down properly, then cooling off in the shower and drinking plenty of cool water post-workout. Alcohol can also add to night sweating, so try to skip the booze, or at least, give yourself a few hours between drinking and bedtime. Drinking plenty of water before bed is a major help. Lastly, there are sheets designed for better cooling, and even mattress toppers that circulate cool water. (A small fan blowing on you, or even sleeping with an ice pack wrapped in a towel, can be a cheaper alternative.)
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