You’ve heard it a million times before: sleep is a vital part of recovery. And whether you’re trying (or not) to get in bed and give yourself a fighting chance to get the recommended 7-9 hours, what you do during the day has a major impact on how you look and feel when that alarm goes off.
That’s right- there are ways you can actually improve your sleep quality without spending more time in bed! Here are six easy hacks to ensure you’re maximizing those zzz’s.
You’re not giving yourself a caffeine cutoff. (This goes for booze, too.)
I’m all-in on the cold brew craze and recently found myself reaching for a bottle of it later in the afternoon. Plenty safe, I figured, since I’m in bed around 11 p.m. most nights. Wrong. Caffeine can have sleep-disruptive effects even six hours before bedtime, according to a recent study at Wayne State College of Medicine.
The study investigated the effects of caffeine at bedtime, three hours and six hours prior. It found that even in that six-hour window —which most of us would consider safe— total sleep time and sleep efficiency (time asleep relative to time in bed) were negatively impacted by caffeine.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up on coffee or your favorite preworkout. But you should consider setting a 3 p.m. or so cutoff time (assuming you aren’t up all night working). If that’s impossible, have your strongest, largest dose of caffeine in the morning and taper off from there.
You’re getting crazy on the late-night snacks.
There’s nothing wrong with a bedtime snack. In fact, we LOVE them. But having too much too late at night is going to mess with your sleep. Ever gone to bed super-full? It may make you drowsy initially, but it’s also going to cause you to toss and turn, meaning you’re not actually getting good sleep or in a REM cycle.
Don’t be that person that saves 2,000 calories for after dinner. No good diet is going to promote that. Get into a bedtime routine, have a small snack of protein and carbs. and drink some magnesium. Why? Because the benefits are tremendous.
Fast-digesting carbs can actually help you fall asleep faster, as your insulin levels will initially spike and then drop off. You don’t want to eat anything that’s going to be fatty, as it’ll slow your digestion. If you can tolerate it, some people like drinking casein protein at night, especially if you’re in a calorie deficit, as it can help keep hunger cravings at bay.
You live for the snooze button.
We all do it. But hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock can actually make you feel worse when you get up. Why? Because your body is starting a new sleep cycle when you fall back asleep and it’s not going to be able to finish it in the 8-10 minutes of your average snooze.
Chronic snoozer? That’s even worse. If you keep drifting in and out of sleep your body and brain are going to be super confused, causing grogginess and that foggy feeling called sleep inertia, which can last for several hours. So, you’re actually more tired despite spending those extra minutes in bed. (And wasting your time.)
You aren’t keeping your place cool enough.
Numerous sleep experts recommend 65 degrees as the ideal sleep temperature, but athletes often need it even cooler.
It’s common for active people to run warmer and you can’t properly recover (not to mention stay asleep) if you’re in a pool of sweat.
Your body temperature correlates with your circadian rhythm; if you’re in an environment where you can’t cool off, you will have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. That can get costly. But using fans, cooling mattresses and keeping your bedroom pitch black (with things like blackout curtains) can help lower the temp.
You’re not getting enough sun. (And too much blue light.)
This is your permission to get a little sun. At least, when you first wake up. Exposing your body to light in the first hour or two you’re awake, can actually can help your body reset and leave you rejuvenated. (Plus, most athletes are deficit in Vitamin D .) You don’t need much. About 30 minutes of direct sunlight outdoors will give you the benefit. So go for a stroll with your coffee, grab a bike or rower and head outdoors or just go walk your dog.
The light you don’t want around bedtime is any kind of electronics. That TV in your room, the cell phone or tablet you’re scrolling Instagram with are all bad news. The blue light emitted from those devices has been shown to block your body’s production of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Like caffeine, consider giving yourself a cutoff time at least an hour before bed.
Your bed isn’t a place of rest.
Maybe you work from home or you have a small apartment. Maybe you’ve got a great little setup and love to binge-watch Netflix or catch up with friends while sprawled out in bed. But more and more studies suggest working in your bedroom is not a good idea.
You want your bedroom to be a calm, relaxing place. You want to associate your bed with sleep or sex, not with catching up on work emails or watching old TV reruns. Your bed is not your couch . It’s not your office. So, do whatever you have to do to keep it uncluttered.