Suddenly my Instagram feed is full of scented, “sleep enhancing” candles and sleeping mask photos. According to trends, sleep is the new black and has become a hot topic – rightly so. We are finally becoming aware of the importance of deep, re-energizing sleep, partly due to the bestselling book, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker.
I’m personally very interested in sleep because over the past two years, even though I got my eight hours a night, I didn’t get the great quality of sleep I needed to wake up feeling energized every day. Therefore, I decided to dive deeper into the topic and I want to share with you why you also should want to get good quality shut-eye every night. Plus, I’ll show you how to get there in just 21 days.
Why We Sleep
We all know sleep is good for us and that we should probably get a bit more of it, but why is sleep so important? A lack of sleep can result in many problems such as memory loss, loss of focus (bad decisions behind the wheel), and potentially serious illness. For a sport in which mental abilities such as clear focus, reaction speed, and decision-making under pressure are crucial, good sleeping habits and patterns can make or break your ride. Sleeping less than eight hours a night dramatically increases your chances of making mistakes and getting an injury and decreases your ability to focus and remember your course – let alone making important decisions on course.
Develop Sleeping Habits
If we want to improve our mental power, we need to start with the basics. Investing in good quality sleep is like a legal drug that will significantly improve your memory, focus, positivity, and ability to stay calm under pressure. So let’s make deep sleep a habit by implementing these three key rituals to your bedtime routine for the next 21 days and beyond.
Unwind one hour before bedtime with simple habits that help your body relax after a long day in the saddle. This will trigger the sleep hormones, like melatonin, so they can do their job. There are many ways to unwind, so find out what works best for you. Some ideas are: a) Take a bath with Epsom salt; it’s a great way to relax your muscles and absorb magnesium to restore balance and strength. b) Read a book before bedtime and light a candle with your favorite sleeping scent (lavender and chamomile are great ones). c) Use a few drops of your favorite essential oils to calm the (often over-active) brain. d) Let your body know it’s time to go to sleep by listening to some relaxing music. Try the Calm app for great sleep tunes, meditation, and calming stories.
Create a clear sleep and awaken rhythm for your body by aiming to go to sleep and wake up around or at the same time every day. Plan to get at least eight hours of sleep a night and ideally a daytime nap of 30 to 60 minutes in the early afternoon (Michael Phelps does it, so we all should, too).
Back in the day when we didn’t have our phones to wake us up, nor clocks, we would wake up with the rising of the sun. Light has a great impact on the hormone melatonin that induces sleep. Melatonin decreases in the morning to help you wake up. Therefore, staring at your phone, tablet, or laptop before going to bed really impacts not only your ability to fall asleep, but also the quality of your sleep. Simply sleeping eight hours a night might not be enough, so the quality of your sleep is just as important in helping you wake up rested and restored. Leave technology out of the bedroom and keep the bedroom as dark as possible during the night.
One more important thing you want to implement into your bedtime routine is to keep your bedroom cool. Your body temperature drops during the night so trying to fall asleep in a hot bedroom can make it more challenging to fall and stay asleep.
By incorporating these four steps into your sleep routine, you’ll be well-rested and feeling recharged every morning so you can tackle your day.
All photos by Dani Maczynski.
Written by Annette Paterakis
Annette Paterakis - The Equestrian Mental Coach - specializes in mental coaching for riders of all levels. She is passionate about working with riders and trainers to help them better understand the mind and reach peak performance. Annette is the author of the book "Keep Calm and Enjoy The Ride", available through Amazon.com. For more information give her website a gander: annettepaterakis.com