Sleep Rehab As Prehab: Optimizing The Time You're Not Moving

Okay, right down to business.

Snoozing is a very important part of life and health - anyone who was forced into Health class in middle school or has ever worked a night shift knows that!

What I should note, before we jump straight into this, is that sleep is very individual. Each person has specific needs - how much sleep, what quality of sleep, how to prepare for sleep, and the environment for sleep. Also, some people just have trouble sleeping. We will work on that too.

That said, if not all of these techniques work for you, that is A-OK!

Skipping past the basics of sleep (it helps heal the body, there’s different phases, it’s literally required, sleep deficits can be dangerous for many reasons, etc)., how can we maximize the impact of the time when we aren’t moving, training, or working?

Sleep Prep

As with all things in life, preparation is KEY!

So is automation.

That means:

  1. Pick a general time for bed and time to wake up, and stick as closely to those times as possible every day.

    I get that life is a mess and scheduling and can wild. Maybe you have to work or train late one night and early the next day. Let’s be realistic; we can’t control everything! Choose a time that works for most days and try to stick to that as much as you can.

  2. Develop a nighttime routine based on your bedtime.

    This includes hygiene, preparing your room for sleep, turning off electronics, and getting into the bed, of course. But it can also involve reading, meditating, breathing, stretching, talking to someone, or anything else you need/want to include. Doing this regularly (i.e. every night, when possible) will help you body say “oh, are we showering?? YES it’s almost time for bed!!” and make it easier to calm down in time. Treat this like your body’s cool down from the day and for sleep.

  3. Don’t consume caffeine within 4-5 hours of bedtime.

    I could drink caffeine until 3 hours before bed and still be able to sleep. Some people can’t drink caffeine after 12:00 or they’ll be awake all night! Again, sleep is very individualised. Be mindful of your body’s needs and reactions to caffeine, and try not to take in any stimulants around bedtime just to be safe. Otherwise, you’ll be sarcastically patting yourself on the back at 02:30!

  4. Avoid devices or screens within 30min of bedtime.

    At the very least, turn on the blue light controls on your devices (all Mac devices have this) and try not to check Twitter or watch TV right before you fall asleep. The blue lights of screens keep the brain active, which is the opposite of what we want!

Sleep Environment

You probably sleep in a bedroom of some kind.

Whatever you call it, if you sleep there (or in that corner, or in that area), it’s now being referred to as your bedroom.

To make it as sleep-friendly as possible…

  1. Keep the bedroom exclusively for sleep and other bedroom activities

    This means that your bedroom is for sleep, naps, adult activities, changing clothes, etc. It is NOT, however, for arguing, for working, for building things, for Netflixing (unless it’s Netflix & Chill). If you really can’t separate these things from your bedroom as a whole, at least try to keep your bed specifically for sleep. It should be your peaceful, resting place. Don’t tie in more associations than necessary.

  2. It should be dark.

    The darker the better. If you can sleep in complete darkness, that’s perfect! If you are someone who likes to wake up naturally and with the sun, it’s fine to leave some outside light in. However, leaving windows completely bare is not advised, as unnatural lights (street lamps, headlights) may shine in and disrupt sleep. Try to avoid device lights too.

  3. It should be quiet, neutral, or restful sounds.

    If you’re not a fan of silence or sleep very lightly, a sound machine, audio track of nature sounds, or a YouTube series called Binaural Beats may help muffle any noise. Try to keep anything abrupt or alarming at bay.

  4. It should be cool.

    Current experts suggest that the room temperature stays between 60-67* Fahrenheit . When we sleep, the body lowers its temperature, so this allows it to drift into and remain more easily in its sleep cycle.

  5. Try not to have a clock visible.

    We will get to this in the next section.

Sleep Rehab

So, your night routine is in place and sleep cave is set.

However, you are an insomniac or have issues falling or staying asleep?

Time for REHAB!!

  1. Continue implementing your nighttime routine and keeping your bedroom optimised for sleep every night. It takes time for the body to adapt to these routines and reset.

  2. If you haven’t fallen asleep within 30 minutes, get up, go into another room, read a book or walk around, and come back in another 10 minutes.

  3. Try not to have a visible clock. The more you look at a clock, the more anxious you get about not falling asleep. The more anxious you get, the less likely it is you will fall asleep.

  4. Practice deep breathing (filling your entire lungs each time) for 5 minutes every night in bed as part of your routine. This turns off your body’s activated response and asks your systems to relax.

Remember that, with anything, optimisation takes preparation, and preparation takes time. Continue practicing these Sleep Prehab and Rehab habits. I promise you - you can’t regret getting more quality sleep!

What does your night routine look like?