At one point or another, we find a way to operate on minimal sleep. Whether it is during finals week at school, when a work project is approaching a deadline, or when one or a few little humans need taken care of at all hours, we are really good at minimizing sleep.
In my eyes, sleep is the forgotten component of performance.
We are quick to come up with excuses highlighting how we can operate on minimal sleep, but I think we are foolish to think we can perform at our best without adequate sleep.
Why do we need sleep?
It is easy to think of sleep as this time where things shut down and screech to a halt. This can’t be further from the truth. Sleep is a very ACTIVE time for humans. It is a time to process the day into long-term memory, aid in muscle growth, repair tissue, and regulate hormones. This process is far from the passive nature we associate with sleep. All of the active components of sleep are very important to your performance success.
Why is sleep great?
Sleep is free. Over the past decade of working with athletes of all ages and levels, there is a consistent trend to improve performance by any legal means available. Athletes spend extreme amounts of money on supplements and devices that measure everything under the sun. I challenge you to see the value of sleep versus see sleep as something that gets into the way of everything you need to get done.
“Sleep is FREE. Sleep is POWERFUL.”
What can you do to optimize your sleep?
You put a lot of preparation into training sessions. Put the same preparation into your sleep sessions. Start with a few small steps.
1) Try to wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends.
I am still learning this lesson and need regular reminders to how important this is. As a performance coach for the past decade, I have had my share of early mornings and late nights. As of late, I have a little more control over the start of my days, so I have been trying to “sleep in” a bit later. I feel worse when I sleep in versus getting up at my normal time. My mind and body have been conditioned to start the waking process at the same time. Why should I fight this? Learn from my mistake and get in the habit of getting up at the same time each day. This will help with your perceived energy levels make mornings less of a drag.
2) Get rid of your phone an hour before bed.
Our phones are ridiculously addictive and can start messing with our unwinding process after a long day. Set a goal of putting your phone away an hour before bed. Make all notifications silent around this time so you’re not tempted to grab your phone during the unwinding process. You might battle a bit of withdrawal at first, but I urge you to fight through this phase. On the other side of this phase is a much more peaceful night of sleep.
3) Switch to H20 two hours before bed.
This is another valuable tip that is sneaky in all of its benefits. Ending the day with a focus on hydration helps optimize your sleep regeneration and impacts the start of the next day. You’ll need a few trials to find a balance of hydration that doesn’t impact your sleep with a late night bathroom break, but it is a worthwhile change to make.
These are three easy steps that you can start to implement to optimize your unwinding process. They might challenge you a bit but these are three attainable goals. After that, take steps to improve your sleep environment. Upgrade your mattress, make sure your bedroom is cool and dark, and even sprinkle in some breath control, stretching, or meditation before bed.
Remember, sleep is FREE. Sleep is POWERFUL!