Sleep is one of the key elements in exercise recovery and is crucial to physical and mental wellbeing.
Good quality sleep is often overlooked in favour of how many hours you can cram into your busy lifestyle.
While most obsess over their 8 hours a night, research would suggest the quality of your shut eye is more important for physical and mental recovery.
If you are concerned about the amount of hours you’re clocking it’s fairly simple to ‘go to bed earlier’. However, as with most things, it’s easier said than done as it takes at least a few weeks for your body’s circadian rhythm (the hormonal cycle that puts you to sleep and wakes you up) to change. A good place to start is to begin your ‘bed time routine’ 30 minutes earlier than usual over the course of two to three nights and then repeat the process starting another 30 minutes earlier again until you have clawed back the extra hour or two you feel you need.
When it comes to good quality sleep this is more complex as many elements can affect this both physiologically and psychologically.
A few quick fixes include committing to a ‘technology blackout’ which essentially means not using any sort of technology after a set deadline like 9pm. The light from electronic devices stimulates our bodies to produce hormones which keep you alert and awake! (So save watching funny cat videos on YouTube for another time).
Temperature also plays a part in sleep quality; it’s all about creating a ‘Goldilocks environment’ – not too hot and not too cold – it has to be just right so your body can effectively ‘shut down’ without trying to regulate your temperature.
Foods you eat can also have an impact. Try to avoid the obvious stimulants like caffeine, not just before bed either as caffeine has a half-life in the body of 5-6 hours. Then there’s the devil in disguise known as alcohol. Many people believe having an alcoholic drink helps them sleep, it will help the body to fall asleep faster but it will be a poor quality sleep, usually broken.
Some foods can actually help too, anything high in magnesium such as bananas, milk and turkey contain tryptophan, the precursor hormone to serotonin which plays a massive role in sleep quality.