Recovery is absolutely fundamental to performance, but is often overlooked or undervalued as we tend to focus our efforts on the actual training (where the stress occurs) rather than what comes afterwards (when adaptation and change actually happens). However, Eric Cressey a world renowned strength and conditioning coach, summed up the relationship between training and recovery nicely when he stated:
We start today with one of the cornerstones of recovery… sleep. The amount of sleep we get directly affects how we look, feel and function. Getting adequate levels brings with it countless benefits including:
- optimum muscle recovery
- restoration of organs and bones
- replacement of deteriorating or dead cells
- increased energy and mental alertness
Yet despite these well documented plus points, the recent BBC programme ‘the truth about sleep’ with Dr Michael Mosley stated that 40% of the UK population regularly get less than six hours sleep per night!
How much sleep is needed differs from person to person and varies among age groups, but according to sleep experts The Sleep Council, 18-65 year olds require somewhere in the region of 7-9 hours per night whereas 65+ adults need 7-8 hours. If you feel like you’re not getting enough, here are some strategies to get a better nights sleep:
Create an ideal environment in your bedroom by making it as dark and quiet as possible. Aim for a room temperature of around 16-18 degrees.
Avoid looking at any screens for an hour before bed. This includes phones, computers and televisions. A far better option is to read a book or a magazine. Personally, in the past year I’ve found reading fiction before lights out has helped me get to sleep much quicker (rather than something factual like a business book that gets the mind going!)
Try to eat your main meal 3-4 hours before bed so that you have time to digest your food. You don’t want to be dealing with indigestion and discomfort whilst you’re trying to fall asleep.
Say no to caffeine and alcohol at certain times. Both can have a huge negative affect so I’d recommend avoiding caffeine later in the day and alcohol during the working week.
Take up meditation. This technique has been shown to improve the length and quality of an individual’s sleep. There are many guided meditation videos on youtube but I’d highly recommend an app called Headspace. It offers a free 10 day meditation programme with a 10 minute session per day. I’ve done it and it’s a great way to get the ball rolling.
Try to form a solid routine by waking up and getting to bed at the same times throughout the week. A common flaw is getting fewer hours sleep during the working week then ‘catching up’ at the weekend. This is a bad habit to get in to.
Invest in a good mattress. We spend so much time on it, it’s well worth finding the right mattress for you. Place quality above price and spend some time on it before buying (you won’t look mad, everyone in the store will be doing it!)