In our previous article we discussed the importance of getting enough sleep each night for your body to effectively recover and repair from injury. As most of the important healing that takes place as you sleep occurs in the deeper stages of sleep; even more importantly than the amount of sleep you get is the quality of sleep you are getting each night.
In this article we look at our top 7 tips to ensure that you have the best nights rest for better recovery.
1. Look at how you sleep
Firstly; In order to get the best possible rest, there are several considerations that you need to take when thinking about how you sleep when you have an injury.
This can be a bit of a catch 22 as one of the biggest challenges to getting a good night’s sleep when you have an injury is the injury itself. Often people find that symptoms are aggravated or worsened when they lay down in bed at night. To avoid this you’ll want to make sure you’re sleeping in a position that doesn’t further aggravate your injury.
This could be a whole article in itself but our quickest tip to start making improvements today is to try placing pillow(s) or towels strategically around your body to offset the load through the injured area and support your sleep position.
Our Tip: For back pain and lower limb injuries, try placing a pillow between your knees if sleeping on your side or under your knees when sleeping on your back.
2. Look at where you sleep
Once you’ve fixed how you sleep, you want to take a look at where you are sleeping. The bedroom environment in which you sleep is key to the quality of your sleep. Limiting external noise and lighting can make all the difference when trying to drift off.
As well as these factors you’ll want to make sure you’re sleeping on a mattress that promotes comfortable rest and recovery. I often tell clients to think of their mattress as their performance tool for better sleep. Whilst this is subjective, getting a mattress that best supports your body can go a long way to a comfortable night and improved sleep quality.
Our Tip: Opt for a firmer mattress that you can then add a topper to in order to change the density to best suit your sleep position.
3. Switch off!
Good sleep is just as much about what you do leading up to going to bed as it is with what you do when you get into bed.
Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices may seem like the ideal way to relax before bed, but in fact the artificial blue light emitted by such devises alters your circadian rhythm (i.e. your body’s internal clock), suppressing the production of melatonin the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle; making it much harder to drift off and stay asleep.
Whilst scrolling through your social media feed or answering a few emails before bed might seem harmless; using electronic devices at night will keep your mind engaged. This will trick your brain into thinking it needs to stay awake at a time when you should be switching off.
Our Tip: ‘Switch off’ avoid using electronic devises 30-60mins before you go to bed. If an absolute must then ensure you turn the screen brightness down when using these devises at night.
4. Take a warm shower
Research has shown that taking a warm shower before you go to bed can help you to fall asleep quicker. Among many other cues, your mind relies on your body temperature to determine whether it’s time to sleep or wake up. As your body temperature cools at night it signals to your brain that it’s time to release melatonin, preparing your body for sleep. Taking a shower can also help you to unwind from a long day.
Our Tip: Take a warm shower around 90mins before you go to bed. As your body gradually cools down following your shower it will help aid your natural thermoregulation process. Telling your brain it’s ready for bed.
5. Just Relax…
Easier said than done! and even just the word RELAX for some people automatically causes them to tense up. That said, one of the most effective ways to relax and switch off before bed is to meditate.
There are many great benefits to meditating regularly but adding in a guided meditation before or as you go to sleep can help you to disconnect and relax, both physically and emotionally. Meditation also helps to reduce stresses accumulated throughout the day.
There are some great meditation apps available such as headspace and calm. There are also some great free resources on YouTube; however, be aware that searching through videos leads you to stimulate your brain as you decide the best one for you and leaves you susceptible to being sidetracked by a cute cat video!
Our Tip: Try a 10-15min meditation as you go to sleep.
6. Change your mindset around sleep
As with everything in life your mindset and beliefs around a certain subject determine how you feel about it. If you are someone who regularly has a poor nights sleep and often tell people about it or label yourself as someone that doesn’t sleep well, you’re training your brain that sleep is something that is difficult or negative.
Stop thinking/talking about yourself as someone that doesn’t sleep well and instead focus on times you have slept well or visualise yourself sleeping well. When you visualise something your brain produces the same physiological response as if you were actually experiencing it. This will retrain the brain to view sleep as something relaxing and good.
Our Tip: If you struggle with this, visualising or reliving a relaxing experience like a holiday or spa break will also help achieve a change in mindset around sleep.
7. ‘Mind dump’
Our last tip is personally one of the most useful habits I have got into myself to help improve sleep quality and is something I’ve termed ‘mind dumping’. If you are anything like me, when you are trying to go to sleep your head can be full of thoughts and to-dos as you start to analyse your day and prepare for tomorrow. This busyness can stimulate you to stay mentally alert and reduce your ability to fall asleep.
Keeping such thoughts in your head can not only keep your from falling into a deep sleep but can wake you several times throughout then night too. To avoid this try writing down (or ‘mind dumping’) all your to-dos for the next day and any thoughts you want to pick up again the morning.
Our Tip: Try ‘mind dumping’ before you get into bed.