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Top tips on how to improve your sleep quality to aid recovery

Sleep is perhaps an individual’s single best recovery strategy – and recovery is an essential part of sport.

Following on from World Sleep Day, Swim England’s sports science and sports medicine practitioners have provided tips on how to improve your sleep quality.

The below information delves into some key facts around sleep, including how rest can be impacted by nutrition, as well as practical tips to nap wisely.

Key sleep facts

  • Ideally, you should get between seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
  • The optimal room temperature should be between 17 and 20 degrees Celsius.
  • A complete sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes. Waking up at the end of a complete sleep cycle, rather than during, can help you to feel more rested.
  • You should ensure your room is dark, with no night light sources, such as mobile phones, present.
  • In addition to room temperature, you should try to ensure that bedding and / or clothing does not cause an environment that is too hot.

Nutrition tips for better sleep

  • A high protein diet can improve sleep quality, meaning less periods of waking.
  • Food high in tryptophan may improve sleep onset and quality. These can include: turkey, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, eggs and milk.
  • A high fat diet can decrease total sleep time.
  • Caffeine intake can cause disrupted sleep. You should try to minimise or avoid caffeine intake after 3pm.
  • Deficiencies in key micronutrients, such as iron, zinc and magnesium, are associated with reduced sleep duration.
  • Energy restricted diets may disturb sleep quality.

Tips on taking naps

  • You should time your naps around 12 hours from the middle of your usual sleep period. If you usually sleep from 11pm to 7am, that means napping around 3pm. This is as long as it does not interfere with your drive to sleep, also known as sleep pressure.
  • Aim for naps of between 15 minutes and a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • Napping means lying down with your eyes closed and deep breathing. You can worry less about if you sleep, but this is about brain rest.
  • If you can’t sleep and your brain won’t settle down, consider meditation instead.
  • When you wake up from a short nap, you should feel refreshed and alert within 15 to 30 minutes.
  • If you need a longer nap for a specific reason, you can bump it up to 60 or even 90 minutes.

More information on getting good sleep can be found in the ‘top tips on how to look after yourself after training’ article here.