How to sleep like a professional athlete

Professional athletes know that the quality of their sleep can have a big impact on their performance on the field. So what can we learn from our athletes and apply the same lessons to our own sleeping habits?

Make sleep a priority

The old saying, ‘A failure to plan is a plan to fail’ rings true when it comes to sleep. If you don’t put plans in place to get to bed early and switch off and wind down before bed, it’s easy to find yourself wide awake at midnight, reducing the number of hours of quality sleep you will receive.

If getting to bed early is difficult for you, you can apply some simple time management rules. Set a time you would like to be asleep, say 10.30pm. An hour before that, plan to wind down and start getting ready for bed. Put these two times in your calendar and stick to them. Before long this will become a routine and you will find it easier to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Light and temperature

The temperature and light of your bedroom can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep. It’s important to keep your bedroom room dark but not so dark you stub your toe during nighttime toilet visits or that it’s still pitch black in the morning. Allow the room to lighten slightly as day breaks so you’re waking with the sun. Our bodies require melatonin to go to sleep and this is only released in low light conditions.

Room temperature is important as sleep can be disrupted if you’re too warm. It’s better to keep your bedroom on the cooler side rather than too warm. As night time begins, your body temperature naturally falls, reaching its lowest point just after you go to sleep. If your room is too hot, this will negatively impact your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep.

Noise Levels

Falling asleep in front of the TV may be a regular occurance but it is disruptive to your sleep. Whilst you may think you’re asleep, your brain is still listening to the TV and any other noises you can hear. Switch off the TV before going to bed and reduce other noises. If you live near a busy road or have noisy neighbours, ear plugs can be a useful aid, as well as ‘white noise’ background sounds, such as a fan or sound track of waves or the wind.

Get 7-9 hours every night

Professional athletes know how important quality sleep is for their recovery and performance on the field, so there’s no reason why sleep can’t be as beneficial for you. It is recommended that adults need 7-9 hours’ sleep each night. Ask yourself, when was the last time you felt truly rested? If you can’t remember when that was, it’s likely you haven’t been achieving quality, restful sleep.

Find the right mattress and pillows for you

Professional athletes have a team of people working with them to help them perform at an optimum level. All aspects of their performance are closely monitored, including what they sleep on.

How did you feel when you woke up this morning? Do you regularly feel stiff, sore or even experience a numb sensation in part of your body? This could be a sign that your mattress and pillows aren’t right for you.

Your bed should provide maximum support for your body so that you are able to get optimum rest and repair when asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.

Exercise regularly

A study has shown that people feel significantly more alert during the day and have improved sleep if they exercise at least 150 minutes per week, which is just 21 minutes per day. The research shows that moderate to vigorous exercise may serve as a non-pharmaceutical aid to improving sleep.

Professional athletes achieve 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise easily, but the average person often struggles to hit this figure. If you fall into that category look for ways you can get your heart rate elevated during the day. Tactics like walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or parking far away from the entrance to the shopping centre are excellent ways to increase your daily movement. Another option is to organize to exercise with a friend. You are more likely to keep the commitment to another person, and you can have fun socializing at the same time.

If you’d like to hear more about how Australian athletes like Hawthorn AFL player Jarryn Roughead, gold medalist Kim Crow, V8 Supercars Rick Kelly and Frank Pritchard, Tony Williams and James Graham from Canterbury Bulldogs have improved their performance through their sleep, click the image below.