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.
6 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Sleep Quality This Month
1. Experiment with supplements.
If sleep is a problem for you, you may want to test out some of the following supplements:
- Magnesium glycinate: most of usare deficient in magnesium, an essential mineral necessary for brain health, metabolic health, skeletal muscle function, and sleep. Here’s how: magnesium helps curb the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that can disrupt your sleep. It also encourages serotonin production, allowing your body and mind to fall asleep faster and wake refreshed. Magnesium glycinate is the mineral’s most bioavailable form, meaning your body can absorb it more easily.
- Melatonin: this is a natural hormone that helps you feel sleepy when the sun goes down.
- Zinc picolinate: among one of the “relaxation” trace minerals, this supplement can help you sleep and boost your immune system. Zinc picolinate is a chelated form of the mineral, making it better for absorption.
- Vitamin B6: a deficiency in this vitamin is linked with insomnia, so adding a B6 supplement may help regulate your nervous system and prime you for sleep
Disclaimer: consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your regime.
2. Eat tart cherries.
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.
3. Install black out curtains in your bedroom.
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.
4. Avoid eating close to bedtime.
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.
5. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol.
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.
6. Unplug well before bedtime.
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.