Sleep is an important component of our day and is vital for good injury management as well as for athletic performance.
- Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature dark and quiet. It is good to restrict activities with a strong physical, cognitive or emotional component prior to going to bed. Put time aside to wind down if necessary.
- Try to dim lights for the period of 2 hours before going to bed. Electronic devices use a blue light which is known to stimulate your alertness. Stop using these devices at least an hour before bed time.
- Regular wake and bed times also help maintain a good rhythm and good sleep patterns. In weekends sleeping in too long disrupts the normal pattern. This has a two-fold effect with there being reduced bright light in the morning, which is important in maintain bodily rhythms, and a greater chance of difficulties falling asleep that night.
- If travelling or sports games affect sleep by delays in going to bed, try to get some nap time to compensate.
- Adding a nap or extending your sleep hours slightly has been shown to help reduce stress. It can also help with recover following physical exertion. One study showed that increasing sleep from 8 to 10 hours allowed fatigued muscle to recover faster. Sleeping more than 8 hours a night has also been shown to reduce likelihood of sustaining an injury by 61%., and those who sleep 5 hours or less are 4.5 times more likely of getting a cold than those who sleep 7 hours or more.
- Power naps can be useful at times when you need to relax or reduce mental fatigue. They can also help catch up following a disturbed night of sleep, and even enhance your mental and physical performance. These should be 15-20 minutes long. 30 minutes or longer will likely affect your sleep patterns. It is best to turn off distractions and find a quiet and dark space. Set your alarm so you don’t over sleep. On waking, wash your face with cold water, expose yourself to bright light, and do something physical to help restore your alertness. It has been shown taking some caffeine immediately before a power nap helps your mental alertness when you wake.
- When injured pain often disturbs sleep. This has a effect of not only increasing pain intensity but also decreasing pain thresholds. If you are not dropping into a good deep sleep, growth hormone, which is important in tissue regeneration and growth is not readily released. Talk to your doctor and physiotherapist to help with strategies to improve your sleep if it is troubled.
By Chris Butler