Good sleep is CRUCIAL to building strength and muscle as well as staying fit and healthy.
I’ve spent a ton of time researching sleep and its contribution to health and fitness. I filtered all that research and knowledge into a great post on the 9 Ways Improving Sleep Can Make You Stronger.
Now that you know why you need good sleep, what is the best way to get it?
You obviously need to set aside enough time to get enough sleep. While time is arguably most important, quality of sleep matters as well. Here are 25 sleep hygiene tips that can help you make the most of the time you are in bed.
1. Don’t go to bed until you are sleepy. If you aren’t sleepy, get out of bed and do something else until you become sleepy.
2. Regular bedtime routines/rituals help you relax and prepare your body for bed (reading, warm bath, etc.).
3. Try to get up at the same time every morning (including weekends and holidays).
4. Try to get a full night’s sleep every night, and avoid naps during day if possible (if you must nap, limit to 1 h and avoid nap after 3 pm).
5. Use the bed for sleep and intimacy only; not for any other activities such as TV, computer or phone use, etc.
6. Avoid caffeine if possible (if must use caffeine, avoid after lunch).
7. Avoid alcohol if possible (if must use alcohol, avoid right before bed).
8. Do not smoke cigarettes or use nicotine, ever.
9. Consider avoiding high-intensity exercise right before bed (extremely intense exercise raises cortisol, which impairs sleep).
10. Make sure bedroom is quiet, as dark as possible, and a little on the cool side rather than warm (similar to a cave).
11. Avoid blue light emitted from screens at least 2 h before bed (smartphones, laptop, monitors). Blue light suppresses melatonin production that is needed to induce sleep. Avoid text messaging, social media, games, app use. .
12. If you must use your computer at night, consider installing color-adjusting and blue-light reducing software or wear blue-light blocking glasses.
13. Get bright, natural light (the sun) upon awakening (the sun is ideal, but some suggest at least a 10,000 lux lamp if artificial)
14. Don’t hit the snooze button. It does not give you restful or gainful sleep.
15. If you have difficulty waking up, a dawn-simulator (increasing light) alarm clock.
16. Meditation any time of the day can be helpful.
17. Higher carbohydrate (namely high glycemic index) foods at night may improve sleep, as well as foods high in protein including tryptophan. High fat intake at night may disrupt sleep. Inadequate total caloric intake during the day may impair sleep at night.
18. Topical magnesium (e. g., salt bath, topical mineral oil) or oral magnesium may help if you are deficient.
19. Melatonin naturally occurring in foods (e. g., tart cherry juice, raspberries, goji berries, walnuts, almonds, tomatoes) may potentially improve sleep, or artificial melatonin supplements are an option.
20. Don’t fall asleep to the TV. Sleep studies show you frequently wake up during the night and have poor quality sleep.
21. Herbal supplements are largely unknown with potential serious side effects, and may be on USADA-prohibited lists or result in positive banned substance test for athletes.
22. Consider reducing your fluid intake before bed so you don’t get up to go to the bathroom (only if you maintain enough hydration during the day).
23. Cooling your body temperature may improve sleep. Some suggest keeping room between 60–70 degrees; however, keep hands and feet warm (socks and gloves may help during winter months).
24. Check your mattress – it may be too old (mattresses typically last a maximum of 9–10 years) and may have allergens.
25. Recovery from exercise should not only focus on muscle recovery. Reducing mental fatigue is just as important for healthy sleep. Reduce external stressors in your life overall for improved sleep.
So there you have it. So many options for ways to improve your sleep to make yourself stronger.
Don’t forget, sleep isn’t just a restful process. So much growth and function happen during sleep that truly make you stronger. Check out my post on 9 Ways Improving Sleep Can Make You Stronger to read about all the mind-blowing benefits sleep can bring you in your training.
Dr. Elle, MD