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5 Tips to Help You Improve Your Sleep

If you want to be an athlete for the long-term, it's important that you improve your sleep. Most of the world sleeps too little or experiences poor sleep quality.

Introduction

We were watching a tv programme the other night in which one of the characters, having been sleep deprived forever it seemed, simply fell asleep instantly. My wife nudged me & said, “That’s you. Your head hits the pillow & you’re fast asleep!"

This got me thinking about why this is, and why it is that I wake up at 5 every morning, wide awake & ready to go.

Here are 5 things I do that I believe create this situation. They’re nothing ground-breaking. In fact most of us know this already, but just in case you need reminding...

Get Up At The Same Time Every Morning

I think this is the number one way to improve your sleep that just just about nobody does & that would solve most people’s sleep woes.

Weekday or weekend, I get out of bed at 5am. It’s a habit I’ve developed and that daily consistency means that I almost always beat the alarm clock.

Many people believe that a weekend lie-in is the ultimate luxury. I’m not saying that it’s not nice to do and there was a time that I would have agreed. Knowing what I knew from my past though, I set out to create an early morning habit & within less than 2 months I had it grooved.

Now my luxury at the weekend is the extra bit of time I have for reading, stretching or a just a relaxed cup of coffee.

Go to Bed When You Are Tired

Sometimes we’re just not tired at “bed time”. When this is the case, is there any point going to bed & lying there, frustrated, staring at the ceiling, wondering why you can’t sleep?

I read somewhere, along time ago, that if you wake up in the night & can’t get back to sleep, you should get up and do something routine, like ironing some shirts. Give it a few shirts, you’ll be bored & falling asleep will be no problem.

I’d apply the same thing to getting to sleep. Don’t try to sleep when you’re still wide awake!

Meditate

I’ve been looking at life hacks for ages & in discussion with a friend, he suggested that I try meditation. So I started about a month ago.

I don’t do anything mystical, I just sit quietly for 10 minutes, focus on my breathing and let any thoughts that enter my head just dissipate by themselves by not allocating them any focus. That’s it, nothing more.

I have no idea how meditation works, but I am more chilled out on a daily basis. I also find I get to sleep more easily. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I am now a little more practised in not having a mind full of thoughts whose demands for attention I’m giving in to.

Use a Dreamcatcher

“Aha!” you say, “Here’s the mystical rubbish.”

But you’d be wrong. A dreamcatcher in my context is simply a place to record all those random “to-do’s" that come into your mind and to which you allocate attention in the desire not to forget them.

Be it a simple notebook, the Simpleology dreamcatcher (which I use), an app on your smartphone or some other way you’ve figured out to record this, you’ll find that by recording those thoughts you can simply dismiss them and get back to the important task of switching off and going to sleep.

Stay Away From Screen Before Bed

The blue light from computer, television and other device screens is said to trigger an alert state in your brain.

One way to overcome this and improve your sleep is to buy yourself some blue light blocking glasses. They’re very fetching and you won’t have anyone poke fun at you… honest!

Alternatively, just don’t use screens for the hour before you go to bed. If you feel the need to unwind, why not read a book? Light fiction or a biography are my favourites. I find if I read cycling or triathlon-related books, my mind switches to an alert state again and sleep becomes difficult.

Summary

Sleep is one of the most powerful, restorative things that you can do. It's vital for you to function, both physically and mentally, to your highest capacity. Yet, it's the one area that people skimp on very quickly when time gets short. 

By giving up sleep time, you're harming your health and performance. By improving your sleep, you're getting a free boost.

If you have any other tips for getting a good night’s sleep, why not share them in the comments below.

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Will Newton


In over twenty years of coaching, Will has coached everyone from absolute beginners to world champions. His interest in getting the best results for athletes who compete for the love of the sport, rather than as professionals, drives him to find the most effective ways to get results.

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