According to the National Institute of Health, inadequate sleep can cause everything from increased anxiety to poorer productivity, impaired cognition to an increased risk for chronic health diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. For athletes, sleep is even more important. Research shows the active person needs good sleep in order to adequately recover from training sessions and get the most out of their hard work. Why? During sleep, a majority of hormonal changes, cellular repair, and tissue synthesis goes on which facilitate strength and conditioning. Sufficient sleep also helps the typical athlete maintain important skills like reaction time and sustained attention. So, if you don’t want to be like the estimated 1 in 3 of Americans who aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep, and if you want to start accelerating your physical performance and recovery, employ some or all of the following six tips.
If sleep is a problem for you, you may want to test out some of the following supplements:
Disclaimer: consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your regime.
The tart cherry (cherries) is a natural source of melatonin, not to mention antioxidants, fiber, and Vitamin A and C. Research has shown drinking two servings per day of tart cherry juice for two weeks can improve sleep even in people with insomnia. If you want the benefits without all the sugar, you can go for supplements with concentrated tart cherry extract.
Sleeping in a pitch dark room helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, since artificial light messes with your circadian rhythm (your body’s biological clock). Nighttime light pollution also inhibits natural secretion of melatonin. How dark is pitch dark? Enough so that you can’t see your hand when you hold it in front of you.
If you eat right before bed, your body is forced to initiate hormone-mediated processes for digestion, which can make it hard to fall and stay asleep. This also impairs your ability to enter REM sleep, a sleep cycle period which is super necessary for promoting brain health and new neural connections (read: learning). Late night eating can also shorten the desirable fasting state where magical things can happen like spikes in human growth hormone and fat burning. The solution? Stop eating at least three hours before hitting the hay.
Stimulants and depressants disrupt sleep time and quality, bar none. Research also shows the sleep-deprived person becomes more impaired by the affects of alcohol. Plus, sleep-deprived people often try to mitigate sleep debt by consuming more and morecaffeine. How much (and when) you should cut back depends on individual factors, and while caffeine may boost physical performance in some cases, you may need to tinker with your coffee and cocktail intake if your sleep is at all lacking.
Stimulating media, especially violent shows or heated debates on reddit, revs us up instead of calms us down, which clearly isn’t helpful for rest. Our tip? Commit to being offline at least one to two hours before bedtime, and instead of scrolling for memes, employ a relaxing winding down ritual: make a cup of herbal tea, write in a gratitude journal, read fiction, rub lotion on your feet, etc. The above list isn’t end-all-be-all when it comes to sleep mastery, and we’d love to hear about any tips you have. Let us know about it in the comments below and be sure to share this article with any of your fellow sleep-deprived peers.