Suddenly my Instagram feed is full of scented, “sleep enhancing” candles, and sleeping mask pics. Sleep is the new black, it has become a hot topic, and rightly so. We are finally becoming aware of the importance of deep, re-energizing sleep, partly due to the best seller “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker. I’m personally super interested in sleep because, in all honesty, over the past two years, even though I got my eight hours a night, I didn’t get the great quality of sleep I needed to wake up energized every day. Therefore, I decided to dive deeper into the topic and I want to share with you why you also want to get good quality shut-eye every night, and how to get there in 21 days!
Why we sleep
We all know sleep is good for us and that we should probably get a bit more of it, but why is sleep so important? A lack of sleep can result in many problems such as memory loss, loss of focus (bad decisions behind the wheel), Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. For a sport in which mental abilities such as clear focus, reaction speed and decision-making under pressure are crucial, good sleeping habits and patterns can make or break your ride. Sleeping less than eight hours a night dramatically increases your chances of getting an injury and making mistakes, and decreases your ability to focus and remember your course, let alone making important decisions on course.
If we want to improve our mental power, we need to start with the basics. Investing in good quality sleep is like a legal drug that will improve your memory, focus, positivity and ability to stay calm under pressure, significantly! So let’s make deep sleep a habit by implementing these 3 key habits to your bedtime routine for the next 21 days, and beyond.
“Plan in at least 8 hours of sleep a night and ideally a daytime nap of 30 to 60 min in the early afternoon”
Unwind 1 hour before bedtime with simple habits that help your body relax after a long day in the saddle and trigger the sleep hormones, like Melatonin, so they can do their job. There are so many ways to unwind, find out what works for you. Some ideas are: (1) take a bath with some Epsom salt, it’s great to relax your muscles and to absorb magnesium to restore balance and strength, (2) read a book before bedtime and light a candle with your favorite sleeping scent (lavender and chamomile are great ones), (3) use a few drops of your favorite essential oils to calm the (often over-active) brain, and (4) let the body know it’s time to go to sleep by listening to some relaxing music – try the Calm app for great sleep tunes and stories.
Create a clear sleep and awaken rhythm for your body by aiming to go to sleep and wake up around or at the same times every day. Plan in at least 8 hours of sleep a night and ideally a daytime nap of 30 to 60 min in the early afternoon (Michael Phelps does it).
Back in the day when we didn’t have our phones to wake us up, nor clocks, we would wake up with the rising of the sun. Light has a great impact on the hormone melatonin that induces sleep and it decreases in the morning to help you wake up. Therefore, staring at your phone, tablet or laptop before going to bed really impacts not only your ability to fall asleep, but also the quality of your sleep. Just sleeping eight hours might not be enough, the quality of your sleep is as important, helping you to wake up rested and restored. So leave tech out of the bedroom and keep the bedroom as dark as possible during the night.
4. Keep it cool
One more thing you want to implement into your bedtime routine, is to keep your bedroom cool. Your body temperature drops during the night so trying to fall asleep in a hot bedroom can make it more challenging to fall and stay asleep.