How to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

Mar 27, 2009 | Parenting

Editors Note: This post is written by contributer Andrew Verdon. Andrew has completed a Diploma in Exercise Science, Certificate IV in Fitness, Level 1 Strength Coaching Qualifications with ASCA. He is currently completing a Post Grad Diploma in Applied Science (Elite Sports Training) and will go on to do a Masters in Recovery.

 

This month we are looking into sleep and its importance to your physical and mental performance. Sleep is an important activity and crucial in the restorative process. Good sleep is vital for high performance; be it in business sport or life. As the levels of physical and mental stress increase so does the amount of sleep we need. However, sleep seems to be the first thing to suffer with many of us “burning the candle at both ends” with late nights followed by poor quality sleep and early starts.

We go through 4-5 stages when we sleep. The deepest of these is called the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. We cycle through the stages up to 6 times per night and each cycle takes 90 to 120 minutes. This is important to maintain your natural sleep cycles and help you wake rested and refreshed.

 

Sleep can impact performance in three main ways:

1. Lost sleep reduces the performance of the cerebral cortex in the frontal lobe. This area of the brain is responsible for the most important mental functions in sport- focus, concentration, flexibility, decision making and information processing.

2. REM sleep helps consolidate activities, tasks, skills undertaken that day. It is indispensable for helping motor learning and skill acquisition. A good night sleep after training is crucial.

3. Sleep releases growth hormones and aids recovery. During the rest that the brain and body receives while asleep, it turns off the electrical and chemical connectors. Sleep is also crucial in bolstering the immune system.

Follow these 7 tips to improve the quality of your sleep:

1. Have a regular wake up time and retire to bed time and try to stick to this each day. The body loves consistency and your internal body clock or circadian rhythms will be set around this regular patterning. Try to arise within a 2 hour window even on weekends. This will reduce disruption to your body clock.

2. Avoid coffee alcohol and other stimulants prior to retiring. Look to reduce intake after 4-6 pm.

3. Try to avoid high intensity exercise and large meals after 7pm.

4. Create quiet time before bed. The aim is to reduce stressors and stimulators, therefore allowing the mind time to wind down before bed time. Just as we do with small children, create a bed time ritual to allow sleep fullness to grow. So limit exposure to loud music, big screen tv’s, bright lights, computers and work related stress.

5. Your sleep environment is important so aim for a quiet dark bedroom with a cool temperature. Get the best quality linen, mattress and pillow as possible. If traveling, consider taking your own linen and pillow. Avoid having laptops, tv, dvd’s, X boxes and play stations in the bedroom.

6. If you are not asleep in 30 minutes then get out of bed, read or undertake another quiet activity and return to bed when drowsy. Downloading meditation podcasts is a great way to quiet the mind.

7. Do not nap within 1-3 hours of bed time. If you do nap in the day, then aim for 20-40 minutes around lunch time.

Follow these tips before for seven days in a row and watch how your sleep patterns improve. Do you have any other tips that improve your quality of sleep? We’d love to know about them…

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