7 tips to improve your sleep and recovery

Pro athletes understand the value of sleep as a recovery tool. LeBron James supposedly sleeps 10 to 11 hours each night. You might not be an elite athlete, but you can still use sleep to improve your performance in the gym, at work and at home.

Most Americans fail to get sufficient sleep. In fact, a lot of adults are proud that they sleep only 4 or 5 hours each night, choosing to power the way through their days with huge caffeinated drinks. Over time, though, that sleep deficit will hurt your performance physically, mentally and emotionally.

Here are seven easy tips you can use to improve your sleep and your performance in every area of life.

Turn all screens off 60 minutes before you go to bed.

TVs, computers, phones, tablets and video games all emit a blue light that disrupts our circadian rhythms and interferes with our sleep. Turn off all of these devices at least an hour before bed. Instead, read a book or spend time with your family. If you really must use one of these devices, consider blue light-filtering glasses or night modes on these devices to turn down the brightness and blue light.

Make your bedroom completely dark.

Get rid of any TVs in the bedroom. Having them on while you try to sleep will impair the quality of your sleep. But go one step further. Remove anything that emits light at all. Look for any devices with power indicators that light up. Consider blackout curtains that block light from the outside coming through your windows. And definitely place your phone in another room while you sleep.

Caffeine can impair your ability to sleep.

Don’t eat within two to three hours of going to bed.

Work, exercise and our social lives sometimes get in the way of a set schedule for eating dinner. Try to eat early enough that you fully digest your food before you go to sleep. Sleep experts worry that a hearty meal right before bed could negatively impact the quality of your sleep.

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Tips for better sleep and recovery

Don’t drink any caffeine in the afternoon or evening.

Try to gradually decrease the amount of caffeine you drink on a daily basis. If you must have your cup of joe, drink it in the morning. It takes many hours for the effects of caffeine to leave your system. A late afternoon trip to Starbucks could keep you awake much later than you intended.

Don’t do anything other than sleep, get dressed and have sex in your bedroom.

Get your brain accustomed to think of the bedroom as a place only for sleep. If you do other activities in your bedroom, such as text, check email or watch television, your brain won’t feel like falling asleep. Once you only use your bedroom for sleep, sex and getting dressed, your brain will go into a mode to prepare for sleep when you enter.

Tips to improve your sleep

Set the same bedtime and wake time every night.

It’s important that you establish a routine for your sleep and that you stick to it. Start by setting a time to wake up every day that accounts for everything you need to do in the morning before work. Then makes sure to get up at that time every day, even on weekends. Don’t hit the snooze button, either. Then establish a consistent time to go to bed every night, preferably one that gives you enough sleep cycles (next tip).

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Improve your sleep for better athletic performance

Focus on 90-minute sleep cycles.

Rather than focusing on getting 6 or 8 hours of sleep, focus on how many 90-minute sleep cycles you get. 90 minutes is the time it takes to go through one complete sleep revolution. Instead of trying to get 8 hours of sleep, aim for five 90-minute cycles (essentially 7.5 hours). If you can’t get to bed at your scheduled time, go to bed at the time that would make your next sleep cycle. If you wake up at 6 AM each day, you could set your bedtime at 10:30 PM each night to get five sleep cycles. If you are out past 10:30, then go to bed at midnight to get 4 full cycles. See Nick Littlehales, the sport sleep coach, for much more information on 90-minute cycles.