We all know the importance of sleep… or do we?
Sleep is still one of the most misunderstood aspects of recovery in human beings today. It is unexplainable by scientific research why the human body will eventually die without the critical replenishing factor of sleep. Aside from the fact that we know we will die without it (eventually) does the average person know what things they can do to enhance their sleep to get the most “Bang for your Buck”.
1. SLEEP CYCLES
One of the most important facts about getting quality sleep is the fact that your body oscillates in and out of sleep cycles in 90 minute increments. It takes your body from initial sleep or Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) to REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Both forms of sleep are essential in repairing and regenerating tissues, building bone and muscle mass, and appears to strengthen the immune system. Tip: Structure your sleep into 90 minute increments. It is better to have 7.5 hours of sleep instead of 8.5 hours of sleep due to the fact that you will have completed 5 full sleep cycles with 7.5 hours of sleep and be woken prematurely during a 6th sleep cycle if you sleep for 8.5 hours. It is best to sleep through a series of uninterrupted sleep cycles.
There should be complete darkness in your room where you sleep. Certain chemical and hormonal production takes place most effectively with the absence of light.
It is found that a room with a constant temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit is most conducive to producing reparative hormones such as Testosterone and HgH (human growth hormone).
A silent room with no noise interruptions is found to be the absolute best situation when achieving adequate sleep cycles. Recent studies have also found light low decibel music or rhythms may help some people achieve deep and REM sleep. The delta waves of the brain are most similar to classical smooth melodies and nonviolent tunes.
5. FOOD & HYDRATION
For serious athlete’s adequate hydration is something that must be discussed. You cannot over hydrate to the point where you are interrupting your precious sleep cycles to use the bathroom! You must however be sufficiently hydrated to enhance your bodies reparative activities while you sleep. The absence of food before sleep is many times the best scenario to enhance blood flow to joints, tissues and muscles and not your stomach to digest a whole meal. Under certain circumstances some nutrition before sleep is beneficial. For example- After a high intensity, high volume training day one might not be able to fit enough nutrition into their diet to compensate for their caloric expenditure. A wonderful nutritious snack before bed can be cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is packed with Casein protein (a slow release protein not like whey protein) and will deliver BCAA and proteins to rebuild muscle damage and tissue over a longer controlled period of time while you sleep!
With activity level and age comes different needs for how much a person must sleep. For a sedentary adult in their mid 60’s their amount of sleep needed is different than a teenager who is growing and playing sports for 2-3 hours a day. Think of yourself as having a battery and the bare minimum for recharging is 6 hours of sleep for a sedentary adult. As your activity and energy expenditure increases your sleep duration must increase. Keep in mind the 90 min. sleep cycles!!!
Some people find it hard to fall asleep due to stress, excitement, nervousness or whatever it may be. Supplementation is something to look at as an alternative to lying in your bed awake all night! Melatonin, Chamomile and Valerian are three over the counter supplements found in pill form or tea that have been found to help with insomnia. 8. ALCOHOL- Don’t be one to fall into the trap of using alcohol to fall asleep. Initially the effects of alcohol make you fall into NREM sleep. But after your initial doze your sleep cycles will be thrown into a non beneficial rhythm with no REM sleep until your body has processed and discarded the alcohol. Use these tips to maximize your sleep. Sleep is like any other biological function and needs to be fine tuned and specified exactly to the person while taking into account their athletic goals, age and activity levels. Take these eight aspects of sleep into account and keep a sleep log. Figure out what works best for you and then lock into your best sleep routine to get the most out of your sleep!