12 Science Backed Tips To Help Improve Your Sleep
Often overlooked, this key piece of the wellness puzzle can have huge impact on the way you perform, look and feel. The foundation for recovery, sleep helps with the revitalisation of both physical and mental function. Being deprived of sleep can have a negative impact on body composition, hunger, hormone regulation, cognitive function, energy levels, risk of illness and injury and lead to a drop in performance. So it's fair to say it's something we need to think about.
Ok but what can help get you 7-8 hours of shut eye?
1. Spend more time outside
Daily sunlight can improve sleep quality (1) so make time to go for a walk or even exercise outdoors.
2. Reduce coffee and other stimulants later in the day
Caffeine can be present in the body up to 8hrs after consumption, which for some can negatively affect the quality of sleep (2).
3. Have a proper sleep schedule
Make the effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Having a set sleeping schedule can help with long term sleep quality (3), whereas irregular sleep patterns can alter the circadian rhythm. This is the process that helps align the body with sunrise and sunset.
4. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol can disrupt sleep quality and sleep patterns (4) so try and limit daily alcohol consumption.
5. Take a bath
A warm bath or shower before bed is an effective way to relax the body and improve sleep quality (5).
The quality of your mattress and pillows can have a significantly positive impact on sleep quality especially for those who suffer with back and neck pain (6, 7).
7. Make your room comfortable
A relaxing space to sleep that is cool, free from noise and bright lights can have a positive effect on sleep quality (8).
8. Reduce blue light
Light emitted from laptops, smart phones and tablets in the evening can pre- vent you from relaxing and reaching deep sleep (9). Download the app F.Lux to remove the blue light on your laptop. There are similar apps available for your smart phone.
Strategies such as reading a book, meditation/mindfulness, massage or listening to music can help relax the body and mind leading to better quality of sleep (10).
10 Don’t exercise late
Although exercise can have a positive effect on sleep, working out just before you go to bed may delay sleeping as a result of alertness and hormones such as adrenaline and epinephrine being released (11).
11. Eat high GI carbohydrates
Although your goal needs to be considered here, eating high GI foods such as white rice, pasta, bread, and potatoes may improve sleep quality if consumed more than 1 h before bedtime (12).
12. Eat enough
Dropping kcals can result in poorer sleep (12). This is another factor to think about when dieting. If you're goal is weight loss, aim for a small to moderate kcal deficit. For more help with your kcals and macros, either check out out free macro calculator or get a copy of the book, Fuelling The Functional Athlete.
10. Take some tryptophan
Consuming tryptophan (1 g) has shown a potential improvement in sleep quality (13). Foods high in tryptophan include nuts, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish and eggs.
1. Fetveit, A., Skjerve, A. and Bjorvatn, B. (2003). Bright light treatment improves sleep in institu- tionalised elderly?an open trial. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18(6), pp.520-526.
2. Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J. and Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
3. Van Dongen, H. and Dinges, D. (2003). Investigating the interaction between the homeostatic and circadian processes of sleep-wake regulation for the prediction of waking neurobehavioural performance. Journal of Sleep Research, 12(3), pp.181-187.
4. Autonomic Stress Tests in Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome and Snoring. (1992). Sleep.
5. Kanda, K., Tochihara, Y. and Ohnaka, T. (1999). Bathing before sleep in the young and in the elderly. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 80(2), pp.71-75.
6. Jacobson, B., Boolani, A. and Smith, D. (2009). Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 8(1), pp.1-8.
7. Effectiveness of a selected bedding system on quality of sleep, low back pain, shoulder pain, and spine stiffness
8. Libert, J., Bach, V., Johnson, L., Ehrhart, J., Wittersheim, G. and Keller, D. (1991). Relative and Combined Effects of Heat and Noise Exposure on Sleep in Humans. Sleep, 14(1), pp.24-31.
9. Higuchi, S., Motohashi, Y., Liu, Y. and Maeda, A. (2005). Effects of playing a computer game using a bright display on presleep physiological variables, sleep latency, slow wave sleep and REM sleep. Journal of Sleep Research, 14(3), pp.267-273.
10. Rider, M., Floyd, J. and Kirkpatrick, J. (1985). The Effect of Music, Imagery, and Relaxation on Adrenal Corticosteroids and the Re-entrainment of Circadian Rhythms. Journal of Music Therapy, 22(1), pp.46-58.
11. Myllymaki T., Kyrolainen, H., Savolainen, K., Hokka, L., Jakonen, R., Juuti, T., Martinmaki, K., Kaartinen, J., Kinnunen, M. and Rusko, H. (2011). Effects of vigorous late-night exercise on sleep quality and cardiac autonomic activity. Journal of Sleep Research, 20(1pt2), pp.146-153.
12. Halson, S. Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep.
Sports Med (2014) 44 (Suppl 1):S13–S2.
13. Silber BY, Schmitt JA. Effects of tryptophan loading on human cognition, mood, and sleep. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010;34(3):