"No athlete ever came off a defeat wishing they had stayed up the night before to watch one more TikTok video." Coach Meg Waldron
I've mostly been a good sleeper. Whether it was a 9-hour night of sleep in high school, or snagging naps in college as a D1 athlete, I made sleep a priority for top mental and physical performance. I can't say the same for the majority of student-athletes that reach out to me for mental coaching. As a matter of fact, many of these young humans are in sleep deficit when we first meet. That's why everybody who comes to me gets a primer on sleep in our onboarding process. When we set a good night's sleep as a first goal, a lot of their mindset issues vaporize.
Sleep is more than just the thing you do at the end of the night. It's benefits are immensely important for peak performance. Want to sabotage your joy and success? Get less than 8 hours of it.
Why is sleep so important? Because sleep is when we build and repair muscle and bone and restore the mind for focus. Your body produces human growth hormone (HGH) when you sleep deeply. That's free legal performance enhancing juice, and who wouldn't want that?
A good night's sleep is how we earn our next workout or PB and avoid injury, illness, and burnout. As a matter of fact, research shows that student-athletes need 8-10 hours of sleep/night. The younger you are, the more you need.
One way to get more sleep is to have a Going To Bed Routine. Follow this pattern each night, and you prepare the mind to shut off thinking. Take this portable routine with you for overnight travel, going off to college, or anytime your sleep situation changes.
HOT TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP
Read through all of the tips below and then pick 3 for your new Going to Bed Routine.
Throughout the weeks you can add, subtract, and tweak as needed for your most delicious night's rest.
Limit or eliminate screentime!!!!! The blue light from screens tricks your brain into thinking it's daylight. At a set time each night close your laptop and don't obsess over homework or other tasks. Charge your phone across the room, in a different room, or give it to someone outside of your room before going to bed. Many of my athlete clients remove certain apps during championship season and set their phone to sleep a half hour before bedtime. Reading a book or journaling right before bed is better than screens.
Taking magnesium at night can help regulate the rhythm of the heart and calm the body for sleep. Raspberries, kiwis, kale chips, and spinach are good food sources of magnesium.
Take a hot bath before bed.
A client swears by Sweet Bee Organics Sweet Sleep Magnesium Butter. Apply to bottoms of feet and calves before bed.
Wear socks to bed.
Keep consistent times for going to sleep and waking up.
Melatonin, gaba, and valerian are over-the-counter natural supplements that can also help you fall asleep. Follow recommended dosage instructions on package.
When you travel, bring a pillow or pillowcase from your bed, or sleep with some of your clothing near your face that smells like you to recreate the experience of sleeping in your own bed. This tip helped a whole travel team.
Try aromatherapy with relaxing scents that help you fall asleep. You can just put a few drops on your throat or use a diffuser or pillow spray. You can also take these on the road to remind you of home. Lavender, Bergamot, and Sandalwood are known to be restful scents.
During the day or before bed, do not ingest caffeine or other stimulants such as nicotine. If caffeine helps with focus, limit to decaf, half caf/half decaf, 1 cup in a.m., or black tea.
Short naps of 20 min--YES. No napping after 4pm.
There are a lot of mindfulness tools and apps (like Insight Timer) that can help regulate your thoughts before bed.
Elevator breathing--slow deep breaths down into the belly, hips, legs, then feet--is restful for many of my clients.
To close the door on overthinking, imagine a calm and happy memory such as lying on a beach or walking through the woods as you drift off to sleep.
Listening to "white noise" such as a waterfall or raindrops can be restful. You can purchase a white noise box or find a soundtrack on youtube of sounds that feel restful.
Check out the Whoop Podcast and sleep expert, Emily Capodilupo to learn more about the science of sleep.