In the last article, we discussed the basics of sleep. This article will address the solutions to increase the quality and the quantity of sleep.
Good Sleep Hygiene
There are many ways that we can improve our sleep. One of the simplest is to have good sleep hygiene. This is a good way to get better sleep, plus be healthier in general. The six components of good sleep hygiene are:
Having a good setting for sleep.
Try to make bedtime a quiet time, and reserve your bed for just sleeping in.
Keeping regular hours will not only train your body to be more alert when you wake up, but will also help you to manage your time better.
This is knowing when your biological clock is alerting you or making you sleepy, and planning naps and scheduling certain events accordingly. This is also knowing if you are a morning or a night person and not fighting your natural tendencies.
Total amount of sleep.
This is the most important factor for obvious reasons. If you get your optimal amount of sleep, you should be able to stay alert all day. What a concept.
Avoid drugs that would affect the sleep wake-cycle.
Common drugs that affect our sleep are alcohol (which may make us sleepy early in the night, then wake us up in the middle of the night), caffeine, and sleeping pills (unless you have a legitimate sleeping problem).
Another thing to keep in mind in respect to the biological clock is that it is more important to get up than go to sleep at the same time everyday.
So if you have that big paper due, it's better for your clock if you stay up late and get up at the same time. Also, if you know you have a tough week coming up, plan to get more sleep the week before so that your body is better equipped to handle the shock it's going to get. Napping is a good way to cut down on your sleep debt, but remember that napping in the early evening may keep you up later at night, cancelling the benefits of the nap.
Additional Tips To Consider
Keep regular hours.
Try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. Getting up at the same time is most important. Getting bright light, like the sun, when you get up will also help. Try to go to bed only when you are sleepy. Bright light in the morning at a regular time should help you feel sleepy at the same time every night.
Stay away from stimulants like caffeine.
This will help you get deep sleep which is most refreshing. If you take any caffeine, take it in the morning. Avoid all stimulants in the evening, including chocolate, caffeinated sodas, and caffeinated teas. They will delay sleep and increase arousal's during the night.
Use the bed just for sleeping.
Avoid watching TV, using laptop computers, or reading in bed. Bright light from these activities and subject matter may inhibit sleep. If it helps to read before sleep make sure you use a very small wattage bulb to read. A 15 watt bulb should be enough.
Avoid bright light around the house before bed.
Using dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms before bed can be helpful. (Dimmer switches can be set to maximum brightness for morning routines.)
Don't stress if you feel you are not getting enough sleep.
It will just make matters worse. Know you will sleep eventually.
Avoid exercise near bedtime. Don't go to bed hungry. Have a light snack, avoid a heavy meal before bed. Bedtime routines are helpful for good sleep.
Avoid looking at the clock.
If you wake up in the middle of the night. It can cause anxiety. If you can't get to sleep for over 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring in dim light till you are sleepy.
Keep your bedroom at comfortable temperature.
If you have problems with noise in your environment you can use a white noise generator. A fan will work.
Know that the "night cap" has a price.
Alcohol may help you to get to sleep but it will cause you to wake up throughout the night. You may not notice it. If you have a sleeping partner, ask them if they notice any snoring, leg movements and/or pauses in breathing . Take this information and try the sleep test. You may have a sleep disorder or you may just need to increase your awareness about your own sleep need. If you have any concerns see your doctor.
Wake up at the same time every morning, 7 days a week.
Regardless of the time you fell asleep or how well you slept throughout the night.
Follow a routine when getting ready for bed.
Whether at home or away, e.g., brushing teeth, washing face, taking a warm bath, slow stretching, reading a short magazine article, saying a prayer, etc... Eat a light, nutritional snack prior to bed if you have hunger pains Milk and tuna fish are known to contain L-tryptophan which helps induce sleep
Whethere it be in the late afternoon or early evening to allow for deepened sleep during the night. Remain on a daily activity schedule seven days a week, to include work, leisure and self-care. Spend a specified time daily to deal with unresolved issues, new problems/conflicts, and to plan your next day's activities. Leaving these thoughts for bedtime will only create "mind racing", decreasing your ability to fall asleep and experience quality sleep.
Divery your attention.
If you are unable to fall asleep after 15-20 minutes in bed, divert your attention to another activity in another room until you become sleepy. Consistently using tobacco will interfere with sleep so it is advised to reduce its usage and/or develop a plan to quit Sleeping pills may not be recommended as a component of your normal routine for sleep. Occasional use may be needed with supervision of a doctor; however, reduction of use and elimination is often encouraged as soon as possible. Check with your doctor.
Engage in a relaxing activity just before bedtime to help you unwind both physically and mentally.
Proper sleeping habits must be install to ensure an optimal functioning of our student-athletes. Do not neglect the power of sleep on the performance of your player.
About The Author
Marc Dagenais, B.Sc., MHK, CSCS, is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Personal Trainer in addition to working as an assistant softball coach for Simon Fraser University. He also runs a website on performance enhancement, training and conditioning for softball - http://www.softballperformance.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This is Part Three, click here for part one!