The combination of exercise and sleep for recovery is the fountain of youth.
Studies have shown that athletes sleep less than non-athletes and have even more problems sleeping prior to competition. There are various strategies for athletes to improve their physical recovery such as relaxation strategies, massage, active rest, etc. but probably the best recovery method, sleep, is often neglected. The purpose of this blog is to help coaches, athletes and parents to better help their athletes and give them three suggestions for helping their athletes improve their sleep quality.
The first guideline for optimal sleep is to identify and obtain the amount of sleep you need. Many times it is quoted and recommended that “you need to sleep at least 8 hours per night.” This is incorrect because the amount of sleep an individual needs is based more on genetics and varies from person to person. The first step is to set up an experiment in which you stabilize your sleep for the first week and then observe for the second. For the week of stabilization, set a regular bedtime and recovers from any sleep deprivation. This usually takes 4-5 days to adjust to a specific bedtime. During the second week, you will continue to go to bed at the particular bedtime and rises when you naturally wakes up. The average sleep each night is recorded is a good indicator of one’s genetic sleep need. Now you should stay within a +/- 30 minute range of their average sleep time so their adaptation occurs.
Secondly, you should keep a regular sleep schedule. Researchers say that changing one’s schedule for any more than two days or sleeping more than one hour longer on weekends disrupts one’s biological clock. Inconsistent sleep patterns change one’s internal biological clock and increases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Over 50% of athletes report difficulty sleeping nights prior to competition. If you condition your body to a regular bed time, you will have less problems falling asleep.
Finally, it critical to develop an optimal sleeping environment. Like a garden, you need to set up the ‘soil’ for your body to take full advantage of the sleep you’re getting. The four factors that create a maximum-quality sleeping environment are quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. It is suggested that the you take clocks, radios, stereos, and even TVs away from the bed to eliminate noise and keep his or her surroundings quiet. To keep the room dark, you should consider installing opaque window shades, stuff towels in the door jams, and use eyeshades. Researchers say that the room temperature should be around 65 degrees F although this varies from person to person. Also, having a bigger bed will keep you more comfortable at night.