When it comes to taking care of themselves, athletes are a different demographic than the everyday Joe trying to include health benefits into their lifestyle. It is either highly recommended or simply a major part of their training, and any good coach would have made it clear that getting a good night sleep as much as possible and certainly leading up to important events was a priority, but you can still bet that a proportion of athletes suffer from lack of sleep in some way, and it can be quite debilitating, both for the mind and the body.
These suggestions are much easier to say than to do. In a fast paced world with electronic distractions, easier access to social networks, jobs, personal time, the list is endless. Take what you want from the suggestions, but you can get a leg up on the rest by simply following a schedule and by modulating your habits a little to get into a good sleep groove, and you’d be amazed at how easy it is to live without a cell phone or that bottle of Coors during Letterman.
For an athlete, you need to find a way to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, so it is up to you where you will find those hours. Traditional hours work best as the mind reacts to traditional inputs that indicate the time of day, so going to be when it is light out will make it that much more difficult to achieve your sleep goals. Having the peak of your day’s activities and the peak of your sleep at night equidistant from each other is ideal. An example might be that you go to bed at 11pm and awake at 6am (7am would be best, providing a full 8 hours).
Once you’ve pinpointed your sleep schedule, you now should try to stick to it. A sleep pattern will condition the mind and the body for a set of expectations to perform.
Try to find some time for exercise, either a routine that you have at the gym, or something less demanding on your time like a routine of simple aerobic exercises. The earlier these are done in the day, the more tired the body will feel when bedtime comes.
Take note of your caffeine and alcohol intake throughout the day. If you find that you require either of these fluids each day, then you might find that they are doing you harm when it comes to sleep. If you take either in the evening, then you are just asking to stay up late, as both will work inversely to your sleep goals.
Eating a lunch high in carbs could promote an early crash in the afternoon, as will eating snacks high in sugar. A chocolate bar might seem like a super idea for taste and a sugar rush, but we all know that a sugar rush starts hard and ends hard. Try to find fruit exciting, the natural sugars will make the up and down nice and gentle, and will last much longer.
To help you ease and prepare your body for shutdown, it is highly recommended that people cut out all stimulants at least an hour before going to bed, whatever that time might be. This includes things like cell phones, computers, TV and anything else that stimulates thought, creativity and evokes emotions.
If you use an alarm clock to get up, place it somewhere in the room where you cant see it easily from your sleeping position. Even casual glances at the clock that reminds you that time is advancing while your sleep isn’t, will cause anxiety, even subtle amounts of it, just enough to keep you awake thinking about it.
There’s a really good article in Harvard’s HBR regarding problems stemming from lack of sleep. The link will open in a new window.