KYN Pyramid for GAA Athletes — Tier 3 — Sleep
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A majorly overlooked part of any health and nutrition plan is the quality and amount of sleep. Sleeping is the body’s main time to recover and recuperate. If adequate sleep is not achieved, there is a greater risk of injury, due to training on under-recovered muscles. Not to mention that performance can suffer due to mental fatigue. 8–9 hours seems to be optimal from most of the research, but again, it is important to know yourself and how your body feels.
If you wake up and are still feeling unrested 5–10 minutes after wakening, start going to sleep an hour earlier and see if you feel better. For someone training very hard, a short afternoon nap can be implemented to assist with adequate recovery.
Not only do we need to focus on sleep quantity, but also on quality.
Here are a few things we can do to potentially improve the quality of our sleep:
- Cut out caffeinated drinks after 2–3pm. It has been shown that caffeine can stay in your system for well over 5 hours. This stimulatory effect can impair your ability to sleep optimally.
- Cut our your exposure to digital screens in the hours leading up to bed-time. The blue-light radiated from screens can stimulate our brain and interfere with our body’s natural rhythm. If nothing else, at least install an app such as Flux (https://justgetflux.com/) which filters out the blue-light from the screens (this is a similar type of light to that of the sun. Our body’s circadian rhythm is partially controlled by exposure to sunlight, do seeing this type of light in the evening can really effect our winding-down process)
- Play around with meal timings and see if you feel better sleeping after eating earlier or later in the evening, although its probably not ideal to eat a lot of food right before bed. Also play around with the macronutrient profile of your last meal. Some people can feel more sleep after eating carbohydrate rich foods, which can be beneficial to sleep for some people. However, it can cause blood sugar fluctuations in other people, potentially leading to poorer quality of sleep.
- Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible, and get one of those funny looking eye masks if you need to.
- Make sure your bedroom isn’t too hot or too cold.
- If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, reading can be a good way to relax and ease yourself into sleep.
- Get to bed earlier. I don’t know how true it is, but it has been many people’s experience that any hours of sleep before midnight are far more effective than those after midnight. Remember, that Netflix show that’s keeping you up will be there tomorrow. Turn it off and get to bed.
- Creating a good night-time routine can be a great way to improve sleep quality. Going straight to bed after being busy all day often results in lying there for ages sorting through the thoughts and problems of the day, which obviously isn’t ideal. Having a period of ‘winding-down’ time before bed can help with the transition into sleep. This time could involve relaxing, maybe reading a book, not looking at screens, preparing for the next day etc.
Next week, I’ll go into the fourth tier on the Pyramid, which is food sensitivities and danger foods!
Keep an eye out for it, or just click here to get an email notification when its out!
For the post about the first tier, which was food, click here.
For the post about the second tier, which was hydration, click here.
ps. If anyone wants more info on anything I’ve mentioned here, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you!