Your Guide Book to Optimal Sleep
We’ve learned specifically why sleep is so important to athletic performance, and we’ve heard from other athletes about how much they value sleep. Now, what steps can you take to sleep like a champion?
The most critical factor in becoming a great sleeper is dedication. Think of your sleep like you think about swimming - a performance that you can optimize if you take the proper steps.
Setting a Sleep Schedule
In both swimming and with sleep, there are a set number of performances you need to show up to each week. For swim practice, depending on your level of competitiveness you may regularly swim anywhere between 3 to 10 times a week. You know how many times your coach expects you to be there, and you try your best to show up on-time to every practice.
Sleep is the same in terms of regularity. There are seven nights each week, and your goal should be to get great sleep each of those seven nights. Just like your swim practice has a well defined start and end time, you should also have a set bedtime and wake up time that you adhere to each day of the week.
It’s important to try not to let external factors, such as completing a big homework assignment, or finishing the 7th episode of your new favorite TV show, keep you from falling asleep on time. This will often require you to be diligent with your time, to ensure that procrastination is not ultimately impacting the amount of sleep you can get.
That said, there are exceptions to every rule - like a friend’s sleepover, or a late dinner that you really don’t want to miss. This happens with swim practice occasionally too. It’s important to have balance in your life, and to not miss those exciting events, but make sure that you’re not regularly deprioritizing your sleep, as there is typically a cost to your performance or readiness every time that you do.
Maximizing the Quality of Your Sleep
You also want to make sure that you’re getting quality sleep. For example, you know that if you just show up to practice every day, but don’t put in your best effort to improve your technique or push yourself, you’re not going to get faster.
Similarly with sleep, if you’re not thinking about how you can get better quality sleep, then you will not be getting the maximum benefits possible.
Let’s first look at some of the most important factors at swim practice…
- Show up on time and finish practice
- Focus on your technique and body position
- Don’t miss laps (bathroom breaks, catching breath, etc.)
- Give maximum effort during the main set
- Cool down to remove lactic acid in your muscles
And see how they compare to important factors for quality sleep…
- Go to bed on-time and wake up on-time
- Find the sleep position that’s most comfortable for you
- Learn to avoid tossing & turning (which disrupts your sleep cycles)
- Ensure that you’re getting maximum amounts of deep, restorative sleep
- Sleep long enough to get proper REM sleep at the end of each cycle
Again, the intention here is to get you to think about your sleep as a performance, and just like you train yourself to be great in the pool you can also train yourself to be great at sleep.
Tools to getting started
Okay so you want to take a more regimented approach to optimizing your sleep. Here’s how we recommend you get started:
A Workbook to Set Your Sleep Goals
See the Sleep Goals Workbook here. You can make a copy of the workbook for yourself and write in your own personal goals into the open columns. We’ve given some examples if you need help getting started.A Sleep Tracker or Journal
A sleep tracker is a great way to measure how much sleep you’re getting, and how both the quantity and quality of your sleep are trending over time. The best trackers on the market that I would recommend are the Oura Ring or the Whoop Band. There are also inexpensive or free apps that you can use including the Sleep Cycle app.
In addition to, or alternatively, you can use the Sleep Journal we’ve provided for free - where you can track the time you fall asleep and wake up each day.
Proper Sleep “Equipment”
Finally, look at the tools you’re using to sleep your best.
Alarm clock: While ideally we’d recommend you try to train your body to wake up without an alarm clock, we realize that’s not always possible. Consider trying a sunlight alarm clock that will gradually wake you with healthy morning light rather than a loud blaring noise.
Healthy supplements (magnesium): There are plenty of sleep aids out there, and we do not recommend using any unless consulting with a medical professional. The exception is the natural supplement magnesium, which helps relax your body and muscles. Try this magnesium complex supplement right before bed.
Bedding: Everyone has their own preference for pillows, sheets, blankets or mattresses depending on what position they sleep in, whether they sleep hot or cold, and how they like certain materials to feel. Try out a few different options to see which work best for you. Lagoon pillows are a great option because with our sleep quiz we easily and intuitively match you with the type of pillow that should be most comfortable for you.
So now you have the knowledge and the resources to begin your journey of becoming an excellent sleeper. Continue to work on honing this skill, and you will see the benefits pay off for you each and every day.
OWN YOUR REST™️