Troubles sleeping? We‘ve all been there, and know how much it sucks. Not only is our training affected, but a bad night’s sleep can also leave us feeling hostile, angry and unable to concentrate. Not to mention the nasty cravings we experience from the moment we get out of bed, to the moment we try to fall asleep again. Luckily, there are a few simple measures we can put in place to fix this. See below for our top tips to help you show your insomnia who‘s boss – no sheep required.
Don‘t dwell on bad sleep
Have you ever noticed that the more attention you give to something (like waiting to hear back from a job interview), the less likely it is to happen, and the longer it seems to drag on? When you stop putting so much pressure on things and just go with the flow, they tend to sort themselves out. Sleep works the same way – the more time you spend thinking about how you‘re not falling asleep, the more your brain is keeping you awake. Ironic, right? Unfortunately at the end of the day, sleep isn‘t something you have full control over, however, you can implement a regular sleep schedule to help set the tone for the week ahead, and knock those bad weekend habits (staying up late and sleeping in) that alter your circadian rhythms.
Let your mind wander
With this technique, you need to tread with caution. While it can be a real game-changer, it’s important you distract yourself with something that won‘t cause any stress. Rather than thinking about that presentation you have in the morning, or what to get your Mum for her birthday, plan out your next vacation or visualize an environment that makes you feel calm and happy (I‘m talking palm trees, ocean waves and sunshine). Before you know it, you‘ll be out like a light.
Think light food for a deep sleep
While having a full belly when you hit the sheets may make you feel sleepy, eating later in the evening puts your body on high stress alert, and can inhibit the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep. In fact, even eating less than 2 hours before you plan on dozing off can have detrimental effects on the quality of your sleep. If you know dinner is going to be a late one, opt to eat something light instead.
Soak for a while
Having a hot bath is an incredibly relaxing activity that helps slow your mind and make you feel more tired. While many of the advantages of baths are mental in nature, there is also a physical component as to why they make us sleepy. When you fall asleep, your body temperature and cortisol (stress hormone) levels drop. This effect is mimicked when you get out of a warm bath and your body cools off. The rapid temperature decrease slows your metabolism and helps prepare your body for sleep. For most effective results we recommend bathing 30 minutes before you plan on sleeping.
Treat your feet
Many studies indicate that keeping your hands and feet warm are one of the best predictors of rapid sleep onset. Putting on a pair of your warmest socks will cause your blood vessels to dilute, in turn redistributing heat to other areas of your body and sending a signal to your brain that it‘s time to sleep.
Cut the lights
When your main source of light comes from the sun, your body‘s internal clock syncs up with it‘s rhythm, causing your melatonin levels to peak in the evening, inducing sleep. But, when you‘re exposed to artificial lighting of any kind, your melatonin levels don‘t rise like they should, which puts your body in an insomniac-like state as it hasn‘t been given the go-ahead to fall asleep yet. You can combat this by dimming your lights and avoiding any blue-light emitting electronics (such as mobile phones and laptops) for at least one hour before bed.
Just like training, getting the results you want for a good night‘s sleep requires preparation and patience. Find a way, not an excuse, and you‘ll be one step closer to reaching your sleep (and fitness) goals. Sweet dreams!