Satisfying Sleep

Getting quality sleep will allow you to feel refreshed, alert and ready to play every day.

Published November 17, 2010 12:00

Satisfying Sleep
Satisfying Sleep
Did you know that humans spend one third of their lives ASLEEP!! Sleep is essential to our physical and mental well-being. Many things can affect an athlete's quality of sleep, including stress, worry and frequent international travel across time zones. This disrupts the normal 24-hour "biological clock". This clock cycles through phases, "circadian rhythms", which are influenced by the normal light and dark cycles we experience every day.

• When you don't get enough sleep or your sleep is poor quality, your reflexes will be slower, your decision making flawed, you can't focus and you may feel angry, depressed or agitated. This is not helpful for your performance!
• Long-term, poor sleep patterns have a negative effect on your immune system and increase the chance of developing chronic health problems, including obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Learn how you can achieve satisfying sleep so you can wake refreshed, alert and ready to play, every day!

Sweet Dreams
Sleep seems to be a time where we "shut down" but it is actually a very active time. During sleep, the brain resets our metabolism, and repairs memory, concentration, mood and learning ability. Sleep is restorative and regenerative. All athletes need a good night's restful sleep to perform well.

Our sleep consists of different stages:
1: Drowsiness 2: Light Sleep
Body drifts in & out of sleep for 5-10 minutes Eye movement stopped
Easy to wake up Brain waves slowed
Eyes move slowly Heart rate slows
Muscle activity slowed Body temperature drops
3-4: Deep Sleep 5: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep
No eye movement Eyes move rapidly
No muscle activity Heart rate increases
Very slow brain waves Breathing rate increases
Very hard to wake up Arm/leg muscles temporarily paralyzed
If woken, feel groggy & disoriented Dreams occur in this stage

What is a "Good Night's Sleep"?
Seven to nine hours sleep is generally considered to be required for best performance and focus each day. But, everyone is different!
• Young people (10-24 years) need more sleep- at least nine hours or more!
• You should wake naturally, be alert and feel refreshed after a restful sleep.
• Work out your own optimal "sleep plan" when you travel to ensure a good night's sleep

Can't Sleep?
Occasionally, all of us experience disturbed sleep, especially at times of increased pressure or stressful life events. This is usually not a cause for concern. However, if you frequently experience:
• Tiredness when you wake up, despite having enough hours of sleep.
• Very tired, difficulty concentrating or fall asleep during the day.
• Disturbed sleep, such as you wake in the early hours of the morning, have trouble getting to sleep or you wake up often during the night …then you should seek help as you may have a sleep disorder.

Many sleep problems are related to an imbalance between stress and recovery, and often are resolved by making simple lifestyle changes, like learning to relax more effectively. To help you get a good night's sleep, follow these simple guidelines:

The Bedroom
• A comfortable environment will aid good sleep. Too hot or cold will cause a restless night.
• Keep regular bedtime hours. Go to bed and rise in the morning at the same times daily.
• Travel with your own pillow, soft toy, or small personal items to comfort and relax you in the hotel.
• For all other activities, such as write emails, surf the net, talk on the phone and watch movies use the sofa or chair. These activities are stimulating so avoid them immediately before bed.
• If noise, like being near the elevator or hearing the T.V. from the room next door, disturbs your sleep, then try earplugs, or listen to calming music or a meditation tape before bed.

What to Eat and Drink
• Avoid caffeine, which is in cola drinks, chocolate, "energy" drinks, tea and coffee, especially after lunch time. It is a stimulant (makes you feel more awake) and can affect your ability to sleep at night.
• Avoid alcohol. It is a depressant and may at first help you get to sleep, but it contributes to restless sleep, snoring and early waking. Seek medical or psychological help if you think you may have a problem with alcohol.
• Avoid spicy foods or too much food just before bed as they can cause a restless night's sleep.

Travel and Jet Lag
• The more time zones you cross, the greater the jet lag effect. Help your biological clock to reset faster.
• Get outside into the daylight and train lightly on your first day.
• Ensure your room is dark to help you fall asleep at night, e.g. draw the curtains, wear an eye mask.
• Go to bed when you are sleepy.
• Be social. People who interact with others upon arrival in a new time zone, adapt to the new time zone significantly faster than people who remain isolated the first day.

Stress and Relaxation
• Sleeping problems can occur from stress or stress-related conditions. Balance your life with leisure and non-professional related activities. Learn and practice stress management skills that work for you.
• A common problem is thinking and worrying about the day, which keeps your mind busy, and make it difficult to "switch off". This can disturb your sleep.
• To help you turn off an overactive mind, give yourself some quiet time to unwind before you go to bed.
• Try a soak in a warm bath; it can ease the transition into sleep. Or use activities you find restful, such as read, meditate, pray, listen to calming music, use visualization or gentle stretching.
• Wait until you are sleepy before going to bed.

Still Can't Sleep?
• Don't fight it. Trying too hard may increase your worry and make you more awake.
• Let go of the worry and sleep will come. Don't lie there staring at the ceiling or counting thousands of sheep! Get up, sit on the sofa and do something you find relaxing. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed.

The contents of the Game, Set, Health site, are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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