General health and wellbeing aside, for the athlete optimising sleep quality can help tremendously with recovery of the nervous system and muscles, as well as consolidating new motor skills that have been learnt.
Here are some tips and strategies that may help you get to sleep faster and/or improve your quality of sleep if it is something you struggle with:
Cut caffeine and other stimulants
Whilst this is a big ask for many tea/coffee lovers, you can try reducing your consumption (particularly afternoon consumption) and often you will see immediate results.
Many of us have diets deficient in zinc and magnesium and even moreso for athletes who require more than most because of the amount they lose through sweat in training, protein synthesis from increased protein consumption etc.
ZMA has a number of potential benefits – increasing testosterone levels, growth hormones, reducing catabolic hormones and improving sleep quality.
For more information read this article.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that helps regulate our circadian rhythms.
It induces sleepiness and also lowers body temperature which can further aid in the process, as our body temperature falls around the time sleep begins.
Try Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt is composed of magnesium sulphate, which has a calming effect on the CNS and decreases cortisol levels (catabolic stress induced hormone) both of which can help you sleep better and more easily.
Try a Cold Shower or Bath
Ice baths work very effectively if you’re game!
Create White Noise
A lot of people find it easier to get to sleep with a portable fan, a trickling water fountain, nature sounds or similar.
Alternatively, if you don’t like a fan going all night you can try putting a white noise music track.
Try Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is one of the longest standing home remedy treatments for insomnia with use dating back to the days of Ancient Egypt – it is said to have mild sedative effect and has a number of other potential health benefits.
Sleep in the Half Military Crawl Position
From the “Perfecting Sleep” section of Tim Ferriss’ latest book, The 4-Hour Body – which contains more tips on improving sleep onset and quality, as well as a number of other human health, fitness and performance related topics.
“Lie on your chest with your head on a pillow and turned to the right. Both arms should be straight by your sides, palms up. Now bring your right arm up until the top of your right elbow is bent at 90 degrees and your hand is close to your head. Alternative hand placement: the right
hand is under your pillow and under your head. Next, bring your right knee out to that side until it is bent at approximately 90 degrees.
This is a last resort that works for one simple reason: you can’t move.”
Establish a routine
Whilst you may also or may not - the body’s bio processes love routines and repetition – developing an effective and consistent daily (meal times) and pre-bed routine can be of big benefit in getting to sleep quicker.
Eat a high protein-fat rich dinner
Some ideas include:
- Steak and a side of salad or vegetables drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Chicken and walnut salad
- Eggs and grilled tomatoes and mushrooms
Alternatively if you like a small snack before bed, try a protein-fat rich snack:
- Cottage cheese mixed with natural peanut or almond butter
- Handful of walnuts
- 2 boiled eggs
This is personal: comfortable bed, dark (get a sleep mask if there’s too much light) and cool room, no disrupting noise
Try to avoid using your bedroom for multiple functions if you can – it’s best if it’s only used for sleep and sex.
Manage your stressors
You’ve got four choices: avoid, alter, adapt or accept.
Read more here.
Lets Have Sex...
Studies show links between the release of prolactin (hormone linked to the feeling of sexual satisfaction) released during male ejaculation and sleepiness - interesting to note that 4 times more prolactin is released post-ejaculation from sex compared to masturbation.
"Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking." - Clifton Fadiman (American intellectual, author, radio and television personality)
Practicing meditation techniques may help you shut up the excessive inner self talk so you can get some shut-eye.
Listen to your body
Go to bed when you’re tired – if you’re not tired do something else (read fiction, watch a sitcom, listen to someone boring etc.) till you are.
Try and wake naturally rather than with an alarm clock (if possible) and avoid outside interference with your sleep patterns.
Become your own sleep scientist
Monitor your sleep habits and keep a recorded log of what times you go to sleep and wake and find, what activities you did preceding it, dinner you ate, energy upon waking, throughout the day etc. and test out different variables, find out what work for you and what doesn’t.
Alternatively or additionally you can purchase a device that can measure your sleep activity like the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach or if you have an iPhone then you might like to try the Sleep Cycle app, which is an alarm clock that wakes you up before your desired time during light slow wave sleep (at the end of a sleep cycle) to make you feel more rested and relaxed.