Are you guilty of trying to catch some zzz’s at your desk, or yawn your way through meetings while sipping on your triple espresso? Whether you are a busy executive, full-time student, stay-at-home parent, or athlete your days are likely long and demanding. In fact, chances are you have probably mastered the art of certain activities of daily living while sleeping!
Work days can be long and stressful and weekends may not be that much better. Add on traveling, academic responsibilities, active social life, relationships, and finding time to get your workouts in and you have a recipe for sleep deprivation!
We often focus on fitness and nutrition as the keys to health and wellness, however, the importance of sleep cannot be under-estimated. Adequate, restful sleep is a significant component in both health and wellness, and recovery from daily stressors.
So how much sleep do we need? Let’s first look at the amount of sleep these elite athletes get per night:
Lindsay Vonn (downhill skiing) = 9 hours
Usain Bolt (sprinter) = 8-10 hours
Roger Federer (tennis) = 11-12 hours
Michelle Wie (golf) = 12 hours
How does your nightly sleep compare? The general consensus and recommendations suggest that 7-9 hours of restful sleep is adequate for both physical and mental recovery from training stress. Ideally, you want to have enough hours of sleep that allow you to feel rested, alert, and attentive during the day.
What are the benefits of good consistent sleep patterns on my performance?
Improves your mental health & function.
You have a better capacity for learning. How? Your attentiveness and concentration is increased. This is particularly important if you are trying to learn a new skill or technique at your job or during your workouts.
Your risk for depression is decreased as are your stress levels which can help decrease overall stress and anxiety.
You have a greater ability to problem solve and make decisions (with your emotions under control).
Improves your physical recovery.
Long days at work or participating in activities and sport can cause the body to start to break down and increase the inflammatory response. Adequate sleep promotes recovery and regeneration through hormone release to aid in muscle repair, muscle and bone growth, and injury recovery.
The immune system is boosted which decreases your risk of common colds or illnesses.
Restful sleep decreases your perceived level of effort or exertion which can make routine tasks easier.
Regeneration helps to prepare the body for the next day’s training stress.
Adequate sleep can help you maintain a healthy body weight. Weight gain & risk of obesity increases with sleep deficiency.
Can I catch-up on sleep? Actually, yes you can! You can think of sleep as being a bank and lack of sleep causing you to be in debt. Every night you decrease the number of minutes or hours of sleep you are going further into sleep debt. The good news is you can repay that debt by either catching up on sleep by going to bed earlier and/or sleeping in (if you can), or you can try napping. Yes it is okay to nap! If you are losing sleep at night, taking a nap during the day is a great way to aid in mental and physical recovery to have you at your best for show day. So find a quiet area of the barn or trailer and get your nap on!
Here are some Tips for Napping:
Aim for a 30 minute nap (if your nap is too short you likely won’t feel refreshed or recovered, and if your nap is too long you run the risk of affecting your evening sleep).
Try to nap in the early to mid-afternoon (before 3pm). Avoid late afternoon or early evening naps.
You want to boost your waking process from the nap in order to feel alert and refreshed. Two strategies that can help are having caffeine before your nap, or washing your face with cold water immediately after your nap.
Finally let’s look at a few TIPS FOR A BETTER SLEEP:
Optimize your bedroom (cool temperature, dark room, noise /distraction free, heavy duvet, supportive pillows…)
Try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule (consistent waking and bedtime – even on weekends and when traveling)
Create a calming bedtime routine (avoid caffeinated drinks, alcohol, large meals before bed, limit screen time, dim lights, reading, take the TV out of the bedroom, soft music…