Improve your sleep

Strategies to Improve quality and/or quantity of sleep

Inadequate sleep and/or poor- quality sleep affects the non-athletic and athletic population. Consequently, adequate sleep is a critical component for post exercise recovery thus effecting performance. Therefore, below we have listed strategies you can implement to enhance your sleep quality to optimise your health, work/sport performance and recovery.

Nutrition do’s and don’ts
Do’s

Consume tryptophan containing foods such as milk, meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, peanuts, cheese and leafy green vegetables in the evening meal to increase melatonin production.

Try including carbohydrate foods at dinner to assist with Serotonin production, e.g. potatoes, rice, pasta… this may not be ideal if overweight or working on losing fat.

Try consuming 30ml tart cherry juice in the evening to increase exogenous melatonin intake (also decreases DOMS -Delayed Onset Muscle soreness). Use in a periodised way, e.g. around high volume training or to get sleep sorted initially if in a rut or during competition.

Consume a balanced, healthy diet, including adequate wholegrains, low fat dairy foods, fruits and vegetables for magnesium and B vitamins.

Try 300-400mg Magnesium supplement prior to bed.
Don’ts

Alcohol intake prior to bedtime (fragments sleep later in the night)

Caffeine and nicotine stimulants intake prior to bedtime (individual tolerances do exist). This includes coffee, tea, energy drinks, cola, chocolate.

To be cautious of
Be conscious of food portions before bed (eating large portions of food can raise core body temperature and make it difficult to fall asleep) and fluid intake prior to bed (to minimise need to go to the bathroom).

Consume fluids with evening meal to increase absorption, then taper off;
i.e. individual fluid prescriptions may be necessary following late- night training/competition to ensure rehydration.

Aim for no more than one visit to the bathroom during the night to minimise sleep fragmentation.

Combating Stress
Use a journal to write down worries/thoughts before bed

Write a ‘to do’ list for the next day to help clear the mind

Body Temperature
Lowering core body temperature in the evening to induce drowsiness and sleep:

Skin-warming (for cool environmental conditions) – achieved through warm baths/shower/spa, hot foot baths, warm blankets or dressing gowns, wearing warm socks and woollen boots/slippers

Skin cooling (for warm environmental conditions) –achieved through cool showers, cold water immersion, appropriate use of air conditioning, light bed covers

Keep a Routine
It is critical to maintain a pre- bed routine to prime the body for sleep. This is crucial for proper sleep hygiene.

Allow 1 hour ‘the de-power hour’ to unwind before bed

Maintain a regular bed and waking time each day (entrains our internal body rhythm -circadian rhythm)

Avoid computer screens, texting, bright lights for 1-2 hours before bed (stimulates the eye). Some people may find a dimmer TV screen from a distance helps them relax.

Creating a sleep friendly environment
Keep the TV out of the bedroom.

Keep the bedroom for sleep activities only, and ensure it is quiet, dark and comfortable.

If you cannot sleep within 15 minutes of going to bed, get up again and try a different strategy. Eliminate the bedroom clock (avoids stress of ‘losing valuable sleep time/clock watching’).
Napping
Napping can be a valuable way of increasing total sleep hours. Experimenting with a 90 minute nap mid-afternoon (one full sleep cycle). Recommended for individuals during heavy training prior to competition or who are having short nights.

If insomnia is a problem, do not nap in the day. Otherwise time naps for 8 hours after rising time (2-3pm) and keep these no longer than 30 minutes.

Naps times between 30-90 minutes or longer than 90 minutes may result in temporary sleep inertia and performance impairments.

Napping 10-12 hours after morning waking time will likely disturb nocturnal sleep. Set an alarm to wake at the right time post nap.

Breathing -Its effects on our health, and the basics

How we breathe affects
 our health and wellness.
You can use this exercise to help you develop the relaxed, natural breathing that your body is designed for.

If you practice this exercise regularly, it’ll become a habit. You’ll feel more relaxed and energetic.

Sit in a comfortable chair or lie down to do this exercise at first. As you practice, you’ll be able to do it easily in most situations – while standing, walking, playing sport or sitting at your
desk at work, for example.

Choose a time and place where you won’t be disturbed.

Lie on your back comfortably. It may help to have 
a pillow under your head and knees. You could also sit in a comfortable chair. You may like to close your eyes.
Place one hand on your belly, with your other hand resting by your side.
Gently close your mouth, lips together, and keep your jaw loose.
Breathe in gently through your nose, keeping your upper chest relaxed and not moving. Feel your belly rise and your waist expand as you breathe in. Your breath should be silent and not forced.
Breathe out lightly through your nose, without forcing, keeping your belly relaxed.
Relax and pause at the end of each breath out. Notice how fully you can breathe out.
As you repeat this exercise, concentrate on ‘letting go’
of any tension in your body – especially in your jaw, neck, shoulders and hands.
Repeat these gentle, relaxing breaths as many times as you like but perhaps for a minimum of five or 
six breaths. Then repeat a few times a day, fitting around your usual routine – for example, before you get up in the morning, when you’re relaxing in the evening, and when you get into bed at night.
(If you have trouble breathing through your nose, you may need to see your doctor and get some treatment for that).

There are a number of App’s that can help with this but also the physiotherapists at Bureta can help with breathing retraining

RELAXING MORE DEEPLY

• Lie or sit in a comfortable position.

• Starting with your toes, tighten them and hold for two or three seconds, then relax your toes and let go. Repeat this with your calves, thighs, buttocks, back, shoulders, neck, face and jaw.

• When you’re feeling relaxed
all over, place one hand on your chest and your other hand on your belly at the level of your belly button.

• Notice how you’re breathing: Which part of your body rises and falls as you breathe in and out? Now practice your relaxed breathing technique.