Sleep. We all know it’s important, yet we all cut it short, regularly getting far less than the eight hours we all need. We look for the next best thing; a trick that will help us relax and recover from both our workouts and our lives, so we can start again the next day.
We try massages, massage guns, yoga, cryotherapy chambers, infrared saunas, float tanks and any other modality we can dream up and access. But in reality, no newfangled recovery tool or practice can make up for a lack of adequate sleep, during which your body makes metabolic, hormonal, cognitive and muscular repairs.
We asked Under Armour’s VP of Human Performance Paul Winsper for a routine to ensure quality Zs.
SET A BEDTIME ROUTINE
And stick to it. There is a reason that, as children, we have bedtime rituals. The brain creates an association with routines for sleep, which will help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
Our brains don’t lose our craving for routine as we age, so we need to recreate those neuro associations.
CREATE A CAVE
Your bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees to help your hormones align for optimal sleep; cortisol levels will drop, melatonin levels will increase.
Keep the room as dark and quiet as possible.
The neon alarm clock numbers two feet from your head? Not good. Consider blackout blinds or a sleep mask, and keep the room uncluttered, so your brain has nothing else to think about.
STOP ALL STIMULANTS
Including your beloved afternoon coffee, by noon. With a half-life of four to six hours, the caffeine you consume at lunchtime can affect your ability to fall asleep at 10 PM.
THREE HOURS BEFORE BED, shut down the cell phone, laptop and TV, because blue-light exposure stunts the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. If you can’t power down, blue-light blocking glasses mitigate some of the effects.
Got a lot on your mind? Write it down. Research shows if you park the day’s stressful thoughts on paper, they won’t keep you up at night.
Once that argument you had at work, the bills you forgot to pay, the general problems of your life are written down, the brain says, “OK, this is tended to, and I can get after it tomorrow.”
RIGHT BEFORE BED
Take a hot shower or bath. Increasing your body temperature, then decreasing it quickly by going into your cold room, helps to induce sleep; sleep usually begins when the rate of temperature change and body heat loss is at its maximum.
This is why exercise right before bed is not advised, because exercise increases your body temperature and provides energy.
Lindsay Berra is a freelance sports journalist based in Mont clair, NJ. At MLB.com from January 2018, she established herself as an authority on baseball fitness and injuries and appeared frequently on MLB Network to discuss her stories. From 1999 through 2012, she was a senior writer for ESPN Magazine, covering primarily ice hockey, tennis, baseball and the Olympics.