5 Sleep Habits That Will Improve Performance and Recovery

Proper sleep habits directly effect both your mental and physical well-being. A good nights sleep will leave you feeling more energetic, improve your mood, and have you primed to perform at your very best, both from a productivity standpoint and in the gym.

Still we all proceed to ignore basic sleep hygiene…

If you are serious about your gains or improving yourself to any capacity, and you don’t currently have your sleep on lock, you aren’t actually all that serious. Sleep needs to be a priority in your life.

This isn’t just about getting in at least 7 hours of sleep either. It’s about clocking quality hours of deep restful sleep every single night so you are able to perform at your very best every single day. Here’s what you should be doing to ensure the best sleep quality possible with 5 sleep habits that will improve your performance and recovery.

1. Keep Your Sleep Schedule Consistent

Establishing a regular sleep/wake cycle can be one of the best things you do for your overall sleep quality.

Not only can this help ensure you are tired and easily able to fall asleep at the end of the day. It’s ensuring that once you are asleep, that sleep you are getting is deep and restful.

Keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps your body maintain it’s circadian rhythm so that your body is releasing the correct hormones at the most opportune times. Cortisol and additional hormones when its time to wake up in the morning. Melatonin when it’s time to wind down at the end of the day. An irregular sleep/wake schedule can be the culprit behind issues like trouble falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, and overall lower quality sleep.

2. Increased Sunlight During Daytime/ Decreased Blue Light During Evening

Exposure to light plays a big role in our sleep/wake cycles.

Your eyes sensing the morning light are what initiates the release of cortisol and additional hormones to begin to wake you up. Likewise melatonin (a hormone that promotes sleep) production is increased in your body in response to darkness.

Unfortunately, artificial light can get in the way of the later. Sources of light like your phone, TV, computer screen, and even simple fluorescent lights can give off blue light which can suppress when your body begins to release melatonin. Blue light is a huge buzzword nowadays but it’s not all bad. In fact it will help stimulate your alertness during the day. Not to mention you wouldn’t be able to hide from it even if you wanted to anyways (your main source of blue light is sunlight).

What is more problematic, however, is letting this blue light stimulation run later into the evening and potentially screwing with our body’s natural sleep wake cycle. Avoiding blue light altogether can be tricky as it’s given off by most electronics (LEDs, fluorescent lights, TVs, cellphones, tablets, latops/monitors, etc.) however there are some strategies to limit how much you are taking in come night time.

Consider blue light glasses to help block out inevitable sources of light. Try to dim or completely turn off electronics in your house 2 to 3 hours before bed. Use filters on electronics like computers and cellphones that limit blue light. Finally, switching light sources in your bedroom like lamps to those that don’t emit blue light, such as orange or red lamps.

3. Limit Late Day Caffeine Consumption

Most people on a base level understand that caffeine and sleep don’t mix.

Pretty intuitive here…that thing we use to wake ourselves up in the morning…yeah not good for sleep…go figure…

However, while most people understand caffeine will negatively impact sleep, I don’t think quite as many understand just how long caffeine will stay in your system.

The half life of caffeine is right around 5 hours. That means if you consume 100mg of caffeine, 5 hours later 50mg is still going to be in your system. Another 5 hours later you’ll be left with 25mg, so on and so fourth. This isn’t problematic if you are consuming the bulk of your caffeine in the morning as it will be long gone by the time you head to bed. That evening cup of coffee you had, or your two scoops for your night time workout however…

Late night caffeine consumption can be a main culprit behind why you find it so hard to go to bed at night, or if you are able to fall asleep, why you find it so hard to STAY asleep. Even if it doesn’t “feel” like there’s still caffeine in your system, any caffeine left will still be negatively impacting your sleep quality. Shoot to limit caffeine consumption to no later than 7-8 hours before you plan on going to bed and see if it doesn’t help your ability to both fall and stay asleep.

4. Don’t Drink Alcohol

Many individuals will utilize alcohol as a sleep aid. While this is problematic for multiple reasons we’ll stick solely to addressing this from the issue of sleep.

Mainly, it’s not actually helping you sleep.

It’s true that alcohol can be effective at reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. However, it’s decreasing your overall sleep quality as a whole. Alcohol consumption can disrupt our REM sleep (rapid eye movement: Stage of sleep when you dream), which can lead to sleep disruption, and shorter sleep duration. While alcohol may be helping you fall asleep, it’s also making you miss out on deeper, more restorative stages of your sleep. Additionally, much like an irregular sleep wake cycle, alcohol consumption will alter when your body begins to release melatonin.

This becomes problematic because alcohol consumption can “trick” an individual into thinking it’s helping them sleep more, when really the sleep they are getting isn’t worth all that much. Ditch the booze and consider more long term sustainable habits to help yourself fall asleep.

5. Optimize Your Environment

Finally, set yourself up for sleep success by optimizing the environment in which you intend to sleep.

Most people will benefit from a quiet, dark, and cool environment to sleep in. Try to limit outside noise as much as possible, turn off any electronics that may be the source of artificial light into your room, and keep your bedroom environment at a cool and comfortable temperature to fall asleep at.

Overall you want your environment to be comfortable, clean, and something you feel relaxed.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.