How to sleep better
How to sleep better
Written by Ian Robinson Level 4 REPS Military PT
Good sleep doesn’t just mean lots of sleep: it means the right kind of sleep. Sleep affects our ability to use language, sustain attention, understand what we are reading, and summarise what we are hearing; if we compromise on our sleep, we compromise on our performance, our mood, our interpersonal relationships and for most of us – it may affect our gym training!!!
There are a number of things that you can do every day to improve the quality of your sleep.
Eating rice, oats and dairy products can produce chemicals that increase our desire to sleep. However, food and drink containing lots of caffeine or sugar can keep you awake, so drinking less tea and coffee and eating less chocolate and other sugary foods late in the day might help you to sleep better.
Although it can make you feel tired and can help you get to sleep, alcohol often impairs the quality of your sleep and makes you more likely to wake up during the night as the effects wear off, and you may need to go to the toilet frequently or get up to drink water if you are dehydrated.
Exercising on a regular basis is thought to help us sleep, as, among other things, it can help to reduce anxiety and relieve stress. It is, however, important to exercise at the right time. Exercising earlier in the day is better, as exercise increases the body’s adrenaline production, making it more difficult to sleep if done just before bedtime.
My top 5 tips for the great night sleep:
- Don’t get caught napping! If you have trouble sleeping, you may feel tempted to catch up on sleep by taking naps. However, unless you’re feeling dangerously sleepy (while driving or operating machinery, for instance), this usually does more harm than good as it makes it more difficult to sleep at night. If you feel tired during the day, get up and take a walk around, get some fresh air, or do something challenging for a short while, like a crossword or a Sudoku.
- If you’re not tired, get up. If you’re finding it difficult to get to sleep, don’t just lie there worrying. Get up for a few minutes and get a drink (no sugar or caffeine, remember!), and go back to bed when you’re feeling a bit sleepier.
- Set yourself a ‘get fit’ plan. Eating healthily and getting regular exercise are great ways of helping yourself sleep better. However, plan your meals and exercise to avoid exercising or eating a big meal after mid-evening: doing either of these too close to your bedtime can stop you from sleeping.
- Don’t stress it! Thinking about sleep too much or trying to force yourself to sleep will only keep you awake. Learning how to relax both your body and mind instead will help you to get to sleep much more easily. I have provided a free audio MP3 of relaxation techniques on the Mental Health Foundation’s sleep website (www.HowDidYouSleep.org), which may help you with this.
- Keep a sleep diary. The amount of noise, light, and distractions, what and when you eat, and the temperature of your bedroom can affect how well you sleep. Keeping a sleep diary to make a note of what the conditions were when you went to bed the night before can be useful for letting you look back and see what has and what hasn’t worked for you. It also helps you to see how your sleep varies from night to night and might help you note patterns in your sleeping.
All in all, if you train hard, you need to recover hard, sleep is where we make the gains and anyway, who doesn’t love a bit of shut eye!!