Male Athlete Sleepin Gin Bed With White Sheets Next To Night Stand

5 Essential Strategies for Consistent Sleep

BY Ryan Tomanocy

These five strategies will help you secure those crucial Z's, unlocking the gateway to enhanced fitness and an enriched quality of life.

In the realm of athletics, let’s face an unyielding reality: consistently clocking a solid 7+ hours of sleep each night is a non-negotiable cornerstone for your overall well-being, athletic prowess, and peak performance. Elevate your health and fitness game with these five indispensable strategies tailored to secure those crucial Z’s, unlocking the gateway to enhanced fitness and an enriched quality of life.

Navigating the Realities of the Sleep Struggle

Research on the benefits of sleep for a healthy lifestyle is VERY conclusive. “Exercise, sleep, and nutrition form the triangle of health, and all are related,” says Dr. Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology and director of Northwestern University’s Sleep Health Centers. For one, her research has shown that a proper night’s sleep (7+ hours) results in more productive training sessions later that day.

While we all know the benefits of a quality night’s sleep are undeniable, many of us still struggle to prioritize it. I have a few hunches as to why that is:

1. Most folks don’t know where to start.
2. Marketing leaves out sleep and instead highlights the sexier stuff – diet, exercise, supplements, etc.
3. It’s not easy to commit to making sleep improvements.

While it’s tempting to hedge our bets on a myriad of other magic pills — like going keto or popping a new supplement — nothing can ever substitute for high-quality sleep. So, let’s buck the status quo and jump in. Here are five strategies you can implement tonight to get better sleep.

Try These Five Strategies for Better Sleep

1. Get Moving During the Day

Not surprisingly, physical activity has a lot of scientific benefits that lead to higher-quality sleep. Exercising outdoors boosts your oxygen levels, while Vitamin D helps regulate your circadian rhythm. This keeps you calm and your bedtime consistent, giving you a restful night’s sleep.

The opposite is also true. Lack of sleep leads to crummy training sessions and a negative effect on recovery. Muscle recovery slows when you don’t get enough sleep (or the quality of your sleep is poor). That means you might feel much sorer for longer than you should.

2. Reduce Your Light Exposure

One of the easiest ways to get into “rest mode” is to adjust your exposure to light. When you’re exposed to light (like blue light from a screen), your brain stops producing melatonin (aka, the sleep hormone). This makes you feel awake and alert. And there’s no doubt that doom-scrolling or binge-watching keeps your mind racing when you’re trying to relax.

Consider turning off your screens an hour before shut-eye. If you have to be on a screen later than that, use an app like Flux to dim the light from your computer in the evening.

3. Optimize Your Room for Relaxation

Sleep hygiene is a trending term that sounds more complicated than it is. Essentially, you want to prepare your room to be as conducive to a quality night of sleep as possible.

Remove electronics from your bedroom — including your TV — and keep the room cool and as dark as possible. Keep your sheets clean and your pillows comfortable, and try some sort of white noise in the background (whether it’s a specialized white noise machine or just a fan).

4. Prioritize Personal Hygiene

Take a warm shower! This is a foolproof sleep-inducer for me. Get into bed clean. If you’re a light sleeper, try earplugs and/or a sleep mask. For dry climates, a good humidifier can be a lifesaver.

If you’re known to snore heavily, consider doing a sleep study to see if you have sleep apnea. While the CPAP machine isn’t the sexiest device, it can absolutely change your life if your sleep is constantly interrupted by breathing troubles.

5. Be Consistent With Your Routine

According to the National Sleep Foundation, actively building a healthy nighttime routine makes it easier to get the sleep you need on a consistent basis. For example:

  • 7pm: Dinner
  • 9pm: Screens Off
  • 9:30pm: Read
  • 10pm: Shower
  • 10:30p: In Bed

Follow some sort of bedtime routine can help you fall asleep more quickly so that you sleep deeply throughout the night.

Effectively Transforming Your Sleep Habits

As I mentioned before, committing to improved sleeping habits is not easy. The tendency is to jump in, make every change possible, burn out, and fall back into your old routine. Fight that urge! Instead, start slowly. Here’s how I recommend starting:

  1. Pick 1-2 actions today that are the most sustainable for you long-term. In other words, if we fast-forward 3 years into the future, have you continued to follow these habits? Can you commit to getting in bed 15 minutes earlier and working out for 20 minutes three times a week? Great, start there!
  2. If you find that one of these actions doesn’t seem to help (after trying something for three or more weeks), then scrap it and try something else!
  3. Go down the list and incorporate a new habit. Maybe taking a shower before bed doesn’t work for you, but what about a warm cup of tea?
  4. Talk with your doctor. My wife had a sleep study prescribed to her, and it provided some really helpful insights!
  5. Play with some of the bonus tips I’ve noted below.

More Hacks for Better Sleep

Breathwork: Try five minutes of focused breathing before bed. I love the Box Breathing Method after training sessions and before bed. I’ve even used it in my pre-bed shower.

  • Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and repeat for 6-10 rounds.

Sleep Supplements: Personally, magnesium really helps me sleep more soundly. Most health professionals would point out that the vast majority of people are deficient in it.

  • My wife uses melatonin on an as-needed basis. Brands like Beam and other CBD products are great places to start with supplements.
  • Talk to your doctor and read the product labels. Chronic use of most sleep aids will blunt their effectiveness over time, so use them only when you need them.

Meditation: If you’ve never meditated before, check out the Headspace app, Reveri hypnosis app, a sleep podcast, or something similar. Many guided meditations are available that are great for clearing the mind.

Sleep Position: Try a new sleeping position, add a pillow between your knees, and scan this article from Dr. Hennoch describing the pros and cons of each position!

Control Your Temperature: Try out the Eight Sleep Mattress Cover to customize your and your partner’s preferred sleeping temps. I’ve heard GREAT things about these from folks I really trust, including Dr. Huberman of the HubermanLab podcast. (Here’s one of his ToolKit summaries on sleep, if you’re a nerd like me!)

If you’re serious about your health, fitness, and performance goals, then a full 7+ hours of sleep every night is essential. Remember that it’s a process, and not everything will work right away. Commit to finding a good sleeping routine that works for you, and you’ll see dramatic changes in your mood and fitness performance. I know I have!

This post originally appeared on TrainHeroic and has been adapted for TrainingPeaks.

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Ryan T 12 05 At 12.57.42 Pm
About Ryan Tomanocy

Ryan Tomanocy is a CSCS, certified CrossFit Level 1 trainer, and USA Weightlifting sports performance coach with 8+ years of experience in the fitness industry. He owns Explore Performance, providing quality training and nutrition coaching for longevity, weight loss, and high performance athletes.

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