How well do you sleep? In understanding where our personal training and group training clients are at – this is one of the first questions we ask. How much? How soundly?

Fundamental to our recovery and day to day function, the power of your sleep cannot be understated when it comes to optimising your strength training and fitness training.

One thing I do pretty damn well is sleep, below are some tips on improving your sleep, huge thanks to Nick Littlehales and his book titled “Sleep” – I have shared below advice from the book and application to my own life coming from my direct experiences in my 4 years as a Personal Trainer/Coach!

Context setting – like plenty of people, I try and cram a fair bit into my week, I work different hours and in running this business, generally quite long hours. On average, this is how my week looks:

  • weekdays – leave the house at 430am and return just after 7pm
  • weekends – gym opens for a couple of hours both mornings for our group classes (not at 5am though!)

What separates me from a lot of people work wise is I do get a bit of time during the day several times per week to take some time out, but more on that later.

I am going to touch on some  specific aspects covered in “Sleep” that I have found to have a huge impact on improving this aspect of my recovery:

The 90 minute sleep cycle – one aspect of my sleep that I wanted to improve was the inconsistent gaps from when I would wake vs when I needed to actually get up. Some mornings, I would find myself waking up more than half an hour before my alarm and getting frustrated, whereas other mornings I would be woken by my alarm from a really deep sleep.

Nick’s book talks about sleeping in 90 minute cycles (the duration of a full sleep cycle). So what have I been doing? My wake up time is set for the same time every day – however my bed time is set from counting back in 90 minute cycles to my wake time. So in my case, my wake time is 400am, so I could go to bed at 10pm for 4 cycles of 90 minutes, 830pm for 5 cycles, or 1130pm for 3 cycles.
The result – I have been waking consistently no more than 15 minutes before my wake time every day – and despite the early starts – been feeling much better during the day.

The pre and post sleep routines – which I see a bit like a chance to switch off at night, then switch back on the next morning. Starting my day in a relaxed and orderly manner is key to the next night’s sleep – so my wake time is set well in advance of the time (half an hour) I need to leave the house – I use light to wake myself up, have my water and vitamins to start the morning, and leave myself plenty of time to get to work. I feel like my day then builds nicely, and by the time I am instructing my first group class at 5am – I am firing on all cylinders – as I have had the time to “warm up.”

At night, I start my pre-sleep routine at least an hour before my pre-determined sleep time – the focus here is on reducing stimulus to relax myself and wind down for a restful sleep. I will not watch tv, check my phone, or sit on my laptop, instead I will have my last drink of water, take my supplements, brush my teeth (bright bathroom lights straight before you sleep are really counterproductive!!) and use the bathroom. I organise myself for the next day so everything is ready to go, then I will turn a lamp on in the bedroom to reduce the light, and the ceiling fan on to reduce the temperature in the bedroom. I will then go out to a quiet room in the house and read for the remaining amount of time before I need to go to bed. Moving in to the bedroom with reduced levels of light and cooler temperature makes it super easy for me to fall off into my first sleep cycle for the night.

Things you could try right now to improve your sleep:

  1. Keep your phone outside your bedroom! Go old school and grab yourself an alarm clock – don’t let your social media world be your first and last interaction of the day, this has been another game changer for me!
  2. Get in sync with your sleep cycles – your body operates in circadian rhythms – try and sleep in cycles of 90 minutes – set your sleep time off your wake time, which ideally should be the same 7 days per week. This will keep your body in a rhythm.
  3. Switch off – your body is sensitive to light, at least an hour before bed – turn the tv off, lose the phone, brush your teeth (avoiding the bright bathroom light just before bed!), find a book or just sit/stretch/relax – leave a lamp on in the bedroom to reduce the light, and keep it cool.
  4. Switching on – give yourself time in the morning, a frantic wake up and rushing around sets the tone for the day, let your day build in a controlled manner.
  5. Give yourself a break – practice switching off at regular intervals (every 90 minutes is ideal) during the day by taking a technology break – even for 5 minutes at a time – it’s a good thing to drift off every now and then – let the mind wander, disconnect.
  6. Separate your bedroom from the other living areas in your house where possible.
  7. Embrace the controlled recovery period (aka the nap) – half an hour from 1 – 3pm, or from 5-7pm are both opportunities for extra recovery, set an alarm to keep it controlled to half an hour.

Let us know what you do to ace your sleep each night!!

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