Have you ever heard someone say, "Oh, that person? Yeah, they eat, sleep and breathe fitness." Well, professional athletes really do. Focusing on sleep is just one of the many things these super humans do everyday that we mere mortals do not.
Since exercise breaks down your muscles and drains your body of essential fluids and electrolytes, getting great sleep is one of the most important things you can do to help your body recover after a hard workout.
But there’s a lot more to great sleep than just getting your full eight hours every night, and pro athletes have spent years perfecting their sleep environment and routines to ensure they wake up everyday ready to tackle the next challenge.
Pre-sleep Routine1 of 7
Athlete's lives are all about routines, because routines deliver results. A set schedule isn't just meant to help you organize your day mentally, but to also help your body naturally establish patterns and responses.
Some helpful sleep tips from the pros include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, getting at least eight hours every night, disconnecting from all electronics at least 30 minutes before bed and leaving your phone out of arms reach while you sleep (consider putting it in another room altogether).
Sleep Environment2 of 7
The importance of a good sleep environment cannot be stressed enough. The perfect conditions for a good night of sleep include cool—even chilly—temperatures, darkness and quiet. If your bedroom is subject to outside noise, invest in a quality white noise machine. You'll get used to it, we promise.
Besides those factors, it's also important that your bed feels like an environment of comfort and luxury—something you really look forward to at the end of the day. Get those extra comfortable pillows and the high thread count sheets if that's what you need to get in bed for longer every night.
Bed3 of 7
Think athletes sleep on just any old mattress? Nope. People spend a third of their day in bed, so yeah, your bed is pretty important.
While everyone's body is different and you might have specific preferences in firmness, the ideal mattress should relieve your body's pressure points. A mattress that doesn't correctly support your bodyweight can actually reduce blood flow and even trigger your body to roll over or move around—interrupting your precious sleep.
What you sleep on is so important that certain brands like Casper are focusing on creating the optimum environment through their mattresses, not just for getting rest, but for athletes to recover while they get a great night's sleep. If you think your mattress isn't up to snuff, shop around and keep an out eye for deals in the next few months.
Pajamas4 of 7
The jury's still out on the whole "should you sleep naked or clothed" debate but aside from personal preferences and comfort, it turns out there are now pajamas that can scientifically make your sleep and recovery better.
Under Armour linked up with the winningest quarterback of all-time, the New England Patriots' Tom Brady, to design their new athlete recovery sleepwear. It's made to help your body recover faster, promote better sleep, reduce inflammation and regulate cell metabolism. The soft bioceramic print on the inside of the garment actually absorbs the body's natural heat and reflects Far Infrared energy back to the skin—basically, it gives you the best recovery sleep of your life.
This sleepwear was one of our favorite innovations from the Consumer Electronics Show this year, but if it's not in your budget, invest in a pair of pajamas that feel good to you and help you press reset each night.
Hours and REM Cycles5 of 7
Sleep science can get complicated but here's the essence of it: It's very important to get deep sleep with REM cycles. Research suggests that it's during REM sleep that the body is able to restore organs, bones and tissue, replenish immune cells and circulate human growth hormone—and yes, that means realizing gains.
In men, 60 to 70 percent of daily human growth hormone secretion occurs during the deepest sleep cycles.
Analyze Your Sleep6 of 7
Once you begin implementing changes to your sleep, it's important to take a look at how they've impacted your performance.
Wearable technology, like the WHOOP 2.0, is taking huge strides in sleep science to help athletes—and normal people, too—optimize their sleep. With this technology, you can track how much sleep you got, how you felt in the morning, your soreness level, any sickness you may feel and even receive feedback on how ready your body is to train that day.
In a study conducted with athletes from Stanford University, basketball players improved their shooting accuracy by nine percent when tracking and optimizing their sleep, and a single all-nighter reduced reaction times by 300 percent.
But even if you aren't hoisting three-pointers at your day job, improved sleep can prove just as invaluable to your overall well-being and performance as it has for elite athletes across virtually every discipline.