True champions discover a secret as they mature as an athlete, rest is a weapon. Sleep is a very important component of rest, allowing your body to recover from training and exercise, and allowing the cells in your brain to refresh, repair, and solidify things you have learned in the day. Imagine if your body was a battery. Batteries need to be recharged to perform, and so do you. In fact, if you don’t recharge, the battery will drain and you will be fatigued, perform poorly, have a weaker immune system and susceptible to stress and anxiety.
Sleep has been studied immensely and is broken down into 2 cycles. NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep happens first, followed eventually by REM (rapid Eye Movement sleep). Various recharging and refreshing happens in each phase of sleep. The whole cycle of sleep (NREM+REM) takes about 90 minutes and we will have 4-5 cycles in a normal night’s sleep. For more information on the sleep cycles explore https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics., or here https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-science-of-sleep-understanding-what-happens-when-you-sleep.
While sleep is essential to recovery and good athletic performance, often athletes don’t know to get a good night’s sleep so here are some tips:
- Set the scene – you should try to sleep in a dark room that is quiet and relatively cool (not hot or cold). Sometimes people find soft music, white noise, or sleep stories help them get to sleep. Meditation often helps too.
- Slow down your brain – avoid blue screens (cell phones, computers, tv) for an hour before bed. In fact, it is recommended that you put your phone on silent or sleep mode and not even have it in the room as you sleep. Research also suggests taking some time to read a book before you sleep, helps your brain prepare for sleep.
- What you consume matters – avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol as these disrupt sleep patterns. Some medication may have to be taken at a particular time to make sure it doesn’t affect your sleep. Try not to be hungry, but also not overfull when you head to bed.
- Other tips – daily exercise has been shown to help you get restful sleep at night. If you nap it should be no more than 20 minutes, and occur before 3 pm so it doesn’t impact your sleep at night.
For more information on improving your chances of a good sleep click here.
By developing good sleep habits , and giving your body and brain a chance to “recharge” and repair, you are taking steps towards being a champion.