HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP QUALITY

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Traveling all year long either for training camps or competitions includes sleeping in different hotel rooms on a regular basis. Additionally, being able to perform on your highest level at the same time presents a very difficult sometimes even impossible challenge for some athletes.

So what can you do to get a good night sleep on a high qualitative and quantitative level?

Being able to sleep well anywhere away from your home starts with establishing a sleeping routine/hygiene: This means that first of all, you should try to get to bed at around the same time every day. Having a rhythm and routine doesn’t only make competitions more familiar and therefore easier to handle and to adapt, it also helps with creating a familiar, cosy atmosphere you need for a good night sleep. What’s your current sleep routine/rhythm? What do you actively do to improve your sleep?

Next, if possible put all electronic items out of your room or at least away from your bed. Also, it’s very much recommended to have no screen time at least one hour (better even two to three hours) before going to bed in order to have a good night sleep. The reason why is that your brain is manipulated by the blue wavelengths of the screen and therefore prevents spreading the sleep hormone melatonin. This, in turn, impairs the body’s biological clock, the so-called circadian rhythm, which will negatively effect your sleep. LED lights are more efficient but at the same time expose you to more blue light than regular lights. If you have the option, use a red dim light, which has less effect on your sleep rhythm. There are also apps for electronic devices which filter the blue light (e.g. “Twilight”, “Blue light filter”,…). Most phones nowadays have an integrated blue light filter which you can activate (e.g. “Night Light”). It might be different on different phones, on my phone, for instance, you have to swipe down and then you can find the button right next to the Bluetooth, Hotspot, Airplane Mode signs. You can also use blue-light blocking glasses.

Additionally, you can include scents to your sleep routine, such as a good smelling lotion or essential oils especially made for good sleep. Our sense of smell has the best memory out of all our senses. This means, certain smells can immediately and sometimes even unconsciously evoke emotions and memories. One example for this: You remember your first crush? He or she might have worn a certain perfume. 10 years later, it could happen that you enter a shop, walk past a person who wears the same perfume – you will immediately recognise it, and it will surely arouse certain emotions and memories (bad or good ones… depending on whether it turned out well or not, I guess ;-)). If you can therefore learn to link a certain smell to your sleeping rhythm, this can be a very powerful method (e.g. little bags of lavender in the bedroom, a scented candle on the bed side table, etc.).

Another good strategy that is recommended to use to improve your sleep quality and routine is music. Specific relaxing music, especially songs including delta waves, can help you falling asleep and enhance deep sleep. To exclude noise and lights from other people, use earplugs and an eye patch. If you need a specific kind of pillow to be able to sleep anywhere – well, just bring the one you are used to on the road and a hotel room will immediately feel more like your room at home (remember your own pillow will also have a familiar, nice smell that will remind you of home). There is a reason why we tend to not sleep well in new beds/hotels, particularly in our first night there – for this, read one of our older blog posts: Why we sleep badly when we are not at home. Using e.g. your own pillow can help in these cases.

There are also specific kinds of tea that are supposed to increase relaxation and sleepiness (have a look in your local grocery store – some of them are even called “Sleepytime tea” or “Bedtime tea”). Generally, heavy food and stressful or high performance activities right before bed time will have a negative effect on your sleeping quality.

Our sleep is divided in cycles of ninety minutes’, REM period followed by a non-REM period (to learn more about this, follow this link). Try to set your alarm right after and not within a period to have an easier time getting up in the morning. If nervousness or restlessness prevents you from falling asleep listen to a guided relaxation like a so called “body scan” or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), which you can either buy or even listen to for free on Spotify or YouTube.

If you are having a hard time waking up in the morning, I can recommend special alarms with a wake-up LED-light and sound. Since bright light, like LED, will disrupt your sleep, it can make it easier to wake up and increase your alertness in the mornings.

Are there any no-goes?

If you are traveling through different time zones, try to no use benzodiazepines. Research doesn’t show jet-lag-preventing effects. Moreover, sleeping pills can impair your cognitive function and reduce your reactivity. These side effects can negatively influence your climbing performance.

What experiences have you made with jetlag? How do you actively improve your sleep quality? If you are interested, you are welcome to read some of our older blogposts about why we sleep badly when we are not at home or the importance of sleep. Let us know whether you found it helpful and what else you would like to read about!

As always, our link to literature is here.

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