“A large European study of 25,000 individuals demonstrated that sleeping six hours or less was associated with a 40% increased risk of developing cancer, relative to those sleeping seven hours per night or more” – Matthew Walker, ‘Why We Sleep’
What Makes Sleep So Important?
It’s where the recovery takes place… The science now shows that you can do as much work on your training and your nutrition as you like, but if you neglect sleep, you’ll remain on a downhill slide into poor health. Your sleep affects your immune function, cellular repair, your ability to assimilate information (and become smarter). It has an effect on your risk factors for cancer, alzheimers, arterial health. It affects your blood sugar levels, exposing you to diabetes, and without adequate sleep we’re shown to make poor food choices
In short – you cannot underestimate the power of quality and quantity of sleep…
We’re not alone in this either. The World Health Organisation declared recently that the Western World is suffering from a sleep loss epidemic
So What Are The Common Fails?
- Taking your work home – and robbing yourself of the time to down-regulate and settle into a relaxing evening
- The ‘Netflix and chill’ phenomenon – it’s easy to resist going to bed when that next episode rolls along
- Late night instagram binging – we all do it. Stop it. Now
- Exposure to blue light in the evening – phones, tablets, TVs – devices that emit blue light trick your brain into thinking it’s day time and thus keeping you awake
- Lack of routine – not having a routine makes it hard for your circadian rhythms to do their thing. Consistency goes a long way
- Consuming too much caffeine – blinds our ability to detect how tired we really are and when we need sleep
- Alcohol at night – even one drink at night has been shown to reduce effectiveness of sleep, and thus recovery. (I know, this really sucks for all of us)
- Shift work – swapping our work/rest times is in direct contrast to our biology, and it comes at a consequence
Some Ways To Improve Your Sleep
- Upgrade your pillow and mattress
- Turn your room into a cave – blackout curtains, as soundproof as possible, fresh air, keep it cool (below 20 degrees celsius) and complete darkness
- Set an alarm to go to bed on time – be consistent on being consistent
- Keep phone in other room – this is so simple and so effective. It’ll reserve your room as place of rest and stop the temptation of picking it up to what’s doing on instagram
- Have a notebook by your bed – head full of ideas when you’re supposed to be sleeping? jot down whatever’s in your head and free your mind to be able to rest
- Get a good alarm clock – one that uses light instead of a jolting sound. The Lumie is a fantastic one that I use. Game changer.
- Keep a routine – get up in the morning at the same time, go to bed at night at the same time. Simple
- Switch to dim lighting in the evenings – lamps, lower level lights and candles go a long way in aiding down-regulation. Turn those overhead downlights off after dinner
- Start napping – not a replacement mind you, but it helps. 20mins in the afternoon goes a long way
- Drink less coffee – set a clear limit on how many you’ll have each day and stick to it. An extra trick that’s worked well for me is to only drink black coffee – it’s hot, it’s intense, and that makes me drink it only when i really want one (not the case with a frothy milky coffee)
TASK FOR YOU
What are 2-3 things you can take action on NOW to improve your sleep?
*write these down on a sheet of paper and stick that puppy up on your fridge
NOTHING CHANGES IF YOU DON’T TAKE ACTION!
In Part 4 of the series we discuss ‘Training Load’, and how that influences your ability to recover, and indeed, progress in your training journey