5 ways to PR your sleep

Training stress has to be balanced with recovery. You can’t have one without the other for a sustained period of time without burnout or injuries. We’ve talked about this a lot in the past and apply it to athletes on an individual level.

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Recovery is anything that down regulates your nervous system. Cold baths, meditation, massages, walking; but what trumps all is sleep.

There are loads scientific studies that have investigated the relationship between sleep and human performance, many of which have studied elite athletes specifically. The results conclude that sleep improves speed and accuracy. It enhances our ability to process information and solve problems. It improves our judgment, composure and ability to assess and respond to situations. It accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen.

Only 30% of adults manage 8 hours of sleep, and this number is falling. Modern technology is geared to keep us glued to the screens and our primate brains have no chance in overcoming that urge to stare when millions of dollars have been invested by social media giants to turn our attention to money.

Even the Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix is trying to keep you up “we actually compete with sleep” was his quote in a shareholder meeting. Obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep a night, and especially less than six hours a night, and the following happens:

  • Time to physical exhaustion drops by 10-30 percent

  • Aerobic output is significantly reduced

  • Decreases in peak and sustained muscle strength

  • Impairments in cardiovascular, metabolic, and respiratory capabilities

  • Faster rates of lactic acid buildup

  • Reductions in blood oxygen saturation

  • Reduction in the amount of air that the lungs can expire


It’s part of our culture that when someone asks “how are you” the reply should always be ‘busy’. People wear the lack of sleep they have had like a badge of honour, comparing sleep deprivation with others. “I’ve always had 5 hours sleep, I’m fine” is the response to a challenge in lifestyle choice. While that may be fine, it would almost certainly be healthier to have more sleep, especially if you are looking for an increase in sports or cognitive performance.

So back to us as athletes and fitness nuts. If progressing in the gym is important, we have to be self aware of our recovery and sleep patterns outside the gym. Here’s some ‘sleep hygiene’ tips to help you get a restful night sleep and smash that workout the next day.

  1. If possible, try to train earlier. If you train on the last class of the day, try to get to sleep as quickly as possible and eat before training.

  2. Avoid caffeine after 2pm, caffeine has a 12 hour half life. We wrote a more detailed blog HERE

  3. Sleep in a dark room and keep it cool.

  4. Switch screens off 30min before bed and keep your phone OUT the bedroom. You can buy an old school alarm clock HERE.

  5. Try to establish a routine around bedtime like you probably do when you wake up

I personally went through a patch of broken and bad sleep patterns, the biggest change in sleep quality was taking my phone out the bedroom. It may be a small change, but personally it also took that anxiety or suspense away from the next chime, cherp or tweet to pop up on the screen. It’s well worth the investment.

Coach Nathan

Smart Performance