You train hard and eat well, yet something’s still off. More often than not, you’re ignoring your sleep and recovery. “The evolution of an athlete, whatever the sport, is based on a tripod: training plan, proper nutrition and rest. If one of these three situations is not correct, the athlete loses efficiency”, says Fellipe Savioli, MD, an orthopedist and sports-medicine specialist at the Brazilian Olympic Center.
Scientific research suggests quality sleep leads to better athletic performance. To get that quality sleep, Dr. Alan Schwartz, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, says “clean living” (centered around proper nutrition) and a predictable sleep pattern are critical. “Suffice it to say that good, quality sleep and adequate sleep improve most measures of athletic performance, injury rates and even susceptibility to colds,” says Schwartz, who has been studying sleep since the mid-1980s.
A study published in The Lancet showed a period of decreased sleep lasting only a few days can cause a disruption in glucose metabolism, the process responsible for storing energy from food and the reason runners carb-load prior to a marathon or long run.
Sleep needs vary by individual, but most adults function best with 7–9 hours a day. Moderate training might streamline your sleep needs, in that you fall asleep easier and spend more time in restorative deep sleep. Heavier training, such as marathon prep, could increase your sleep needs.
“Sleep is divided into five stages: the first three are a state of relaxation, while the fourth and fifth stage are those of deep sleep, where the athlete’s recovery actually occurs,” says Savioli. “Therefore, the amount of sleep is one point and the quality of sleep is another. There are athletes who sleep the number of hours needed, but they can not achieve deep sleep, not the benefits of it. In these cases, professional assistance is required.”
For a better night’s sleep, follow these eight steps:
1. Keep a Schedule
According to Thomaz Fleury Curado, PhD, post-doctoral sleep fellow at Johns Hopkins University, sleep is better if you train your body to get into a rhythm. Keep a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule.
2. Take Short Naps
Keep your naps to 30 minutes, max. “After that, it may change your sleep architecture,” says Curado.
3. Limit Nighttime Screen Time
Shut down your devices 30 minutes before sleep to quiet your mind. “There is still some discussion regarding the yellow light from iPhone’s night shift, but it’s definitely better than any white light,” Curado says.
4. Focus on Nutrition
Avoid heavy food, chocolate and caffeinated drinks such as coffee and green tea before bed.
5. Respect Your Bedroom
Try not to do too many activities in the bedroom. Avoid working or watching Netflix in bed. Keep the room dark and cool. Consider wearing recovery sleepwear like Under Armour’s tech-enabled pajamas, which help your body recover faster and promote better sleep. The soft, bioceramic print on the inside of the garment absorbs the body’s natural heat and reflects Far Infrared back to the skin.
6. Clear Your Mind
Your last thought as you slip into slumber should not be tomorrow’s schedule. “If worries are chasing the sleep away, try something distracting (like reading a book) in order to clear your mind,” says Curado.
7. Time Your Exercise
Build a six-hour gap into your day between working out and bedtime. Curado says this window is necessary to baseline your metabolism.
8. Track Your Sleep
Improve your recovery process and sleep consistency by tracking your sleep with UA Record.
GEAR UP FOR SLEEP