We all know that sleep is important. But I don’t think many of us realise just how important it is. Among other things a good night’s sleep promotes skin health, improves athletic performance, increases testosterone, encourages healthy cell division (helps prevent cancer) and can even improve your ability to learn new motor skills by 20%.
I’m lucky enough to never have had a problem with insomnia or other sleep issues. However, long flights, staying in hotels and dealing with jet lag while traveling the globe poses a challenge even for a heavy sleeper like me. So over the years I’ve developed a few simple evening routines and techniques to improving my sleep quality.
Eleven tips for better sleep.
So without further ado here are 11 of my top sleep tips and tricks to improve the sleeping one third your life:
- Avoid artificial light after sundown
- Don’t drink coffee before bed
- Eat a healthy high fat and protein dominated dinner
- Supplement melatonin before going to sleep
- Have a pre sleep snack
- Drink a bedtime sleep aid concoction
- Make your room as dark as possible
- Turn off phone or move away from bed
- Keep your room cool
- Meditate while in bed
1. Avoid artificial light after sundown.
Studies have shown that exposure to artificial light in the evening can be bad for your health and sleep. The blue light emitted from technology like your phone, television and computer suppress the release of melatonin and throws off your body’s biological clock (the circadian rhythm). I try to avoid screens as much as possible at night but when that’s not possible I use an app called lux on my phone and computer. It adjusts the colour and brightness of the screen reducing the amount of blue light my body takes in.
2. Don’t drink coffee before bed.
This should be pretty self explanatory. Caffeine is not a sleep aid so stay away from caffeinated drinks and food before. I stop drinking coffee around 3pm but if you’re sensitive to the stuff you may want to avoid it up 8+ hours before bedtime.
I do some form of training almost every day (tennis, sprints, intervals, etc.) and because of this my body is physically ready for restful sleep. Research shows that some of the many benefits of exercise are improvements to sleep patterns, and the quality of sleep you get (stimulates longer periods of “slow-wave” sleep). If I can’t get out on the tennis court I’ll often do a tough hour of yoga in the morning or a more relaxing round in the evening (no later than 2 – 3 hours before bed).
4. Eat a healthy high fat and protein dominated dinner.
I’m not quite sure why this works but when I eat a protein rich dinner (3 – 4 hours before bed) such as steak with vegetables and salad drizzled with healthy high fat oils I fall asleep faster and deeper. I Don’t know the science but I suspect this works because our bodies use combination of long burning healthy fat and protein to repair muscles, grow new tissue and improve our immune system. I use a combination of olive oil, coconut oil and MCT oil in my food for my healthy fats.
5. Supplement melatonin before going to sleep.
Melatonin is a sleep hormone that tells your body it’s time to sleep. It occurs naturally in the body with the onset of darkness but because of all the electric light surrounding us the release of melatonin often shifts. To counter this I take 1 – 3 mgs of melatonin about one hour before bed. This is also a great travel “hack” to deal with jet lag. No long term negative effects have been found but I cycle my intake of melatonin to make sure my body doesn’t become reliant on it.
6. Have a pre sleep snack.
Having a quick and healthy snack before bed boosts serotonin levels, and prevents low blood sugar while also increasing cell repair and aiding heart function while sleeping. I eat a few cashews, walnuts and brazil nuts along with a spoon of organic almond butter before bed. It tastes good, helps me sleep and has the positive side effect of making me feel better in the morning.
7. Bedtime “knock out” sleep concoction.
If I’m really in the need of a good night sleep I’ll make a special bedtime drink that knocks me out cold. I’ve used a variation of this for years but here is the latest version. Mix and stir the following in a cup of hot water or chamomile tea and drink right before bed: apple cider vinegar, raw organic honey, flaxseed oil, poppy extract, chamomile or yogi bedtime tea. A simpler (and better tasting) version of this concoction is just the apple cider vinegar and organic honey mixed together in hot water or tea. You can find the exact recipe for this bedtime drink here.
8. Make your room as dark as possible.
If possible sleep in a pitch-black room. Block out as many light sources you can including light from outside like street lamps and light from inside like LED’s. If you live in a city or a place where the sun is up all night during the summer like Norway, you should get some blackout curtains. Think of this as trying to recreate the sleeping conditions from thousands of years ago before artificial light that our bodies evolved for.
9. Turn off phone or move away from bed.
I find that turning my phone off, setting it in flight mode or moving it away from my bed has a noticeable effect on my sleep. My guess is that EMFs can disturb sleep although I’m not sure if this has been scientifically proven. Could be a placebo but either way it works for me.
10. Keep your room cool.
The ideal temperature for sleep will depend on your personal preference so experiment to find out what works for you. However, a cool room somewhere in the range of 18°C – 21°C is a good place to start. I prefer my room to be about 20°C.
11. Meditate while in bed.
Meditation is part of my daily routine but a little trick I use is to also meditate while in bed. I just relax my body and pay attention to my breath. Either I end up in deep meditation or I fall asleep. Either way it’s a win! This is a great “sleep hack” if you have trouble falling asleep. Give it a try.
Four tools and gadgets for improved sleep.
Finally here are my top four tools and gadgets for improved sleep at home or while traveling:
1. Air purifier/humidifier.
At home I use the DeLonghi Air Purifier which has a four layer ionizing filtration system to remove dust, pollen, smoke, etc from the air. For traveling the Boneco Ultrasonic Travel Humidifier is great. It uses high frequency vibrations to create and blow a fine mist around the room. These two products help eliminate sinus problems and as a nice side benefit improve my skin.
2. Grounding pillow and/or sheet.
Getting a grounding pillow and/or sheet was recommended to me a few years ago by my physio and a few other athletes. There is some interesting research that suggest it synchronises cortisol levels and increases blood flow to help reduce stress and inflammation. I’ve found it improves the quality of my sleep and speeds up recovery.
3. Sleep mask.
If you can’t make your room dark an eye mask is your best option. The Bucky Sleep Mask is great because instead of the normal pads that rest on your eyelids these have a dome like design that blocks out light without putting pressure on your eyes. They’re also great travel accessory for long haul flights.
4. Slow wave sleep audio.
I use these delta frequency audio files by Kelly Howell to block out noise and relax my mind while I drift off to sleep. My favourite is the 60 minute ocean wave track. The only problem is that now I have a pavlovian like response every time I’m at the beach ha ha.
I hope the above compilation of tips will help give you a better night’s sleep. It goes without saying that I’m not a doctor so please consult a specialist if you’re having real issues sleeping. Finally, thank you to all the trainers, friends and writers I’ve learned from over the years for helping me figure this stuff out. You’ve saved me from many a night’s bad sleep.
You might also like…
- 5 Things I’m Loving, Reading, Pondering & Using
- How to Stay Hydrated on the Tennis Court
- My “Knockout” Bedtime Drink For Better Sleep
If you’re interested in more tips like this then please subscribe to my newsletter. It’s where I share all my best content ranging from interviews and tennis videos to gear recommendations and health/fitness tips. Sign up here.