Five tips to sleep like an Olympic athlete during coronavirus crisis

tips to get good quality sleep

In a time of such uncertainty, good quality sleep may not come easily to many of us. learn some tips to get good quality sleep here.

Luke Gupta, who works as a senior physiologist and sleep scientist for the English Institute of Sport, helps ensure Great Britain’s top Olympians get a good night’s sleep before big competitions.

He shares his tips to get good quality sleep amid all the anxiety brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Are you calm before bed?

Inevitably there will be nights when you go to bed and you are not calm. You might have just had a stressful phone call or checked the latest coronavirus news before you went to bed.

Of course we want to know what is going on because there is a lot of uncertainty. The problem isn’t necessarily that we’re doing that – it’s the timing of it.

It creates a sense of heightened alertness that means it will take a long time to go to sleep. If you have just checked the news and it’s stressed you out, don’t try and sleep because it is unlikely to happen.

If that is the only time at which you can do that then it is OK to go to bed later and have a wind-down routine.

Instead of just turning the light off and trying to sleep, you are better off getting up and going to do something relaxing like watching TV or reading a book, then going to bed in a much more relaxed state, than forcing sleep.

It is OK to go to bed later because it’s better to go to bed in a relaxed state than it is in a stressed state.

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2. Are you appropriately sleepy?

Sleep is like an elastic band. It stretches while you are awake and the stretchier the band is when you go to bed, the quicker it’s going to snap back – which represents falling asleep.

If you have been awake for a very long time, you are very sleepy when you go to bed and the likelihood is you will fall asleep very quickly.

Exercise also drives our sleep. By doing a certain level of activity in the daytime, it makes you sleepier at night.

Athletes want to go to bed the night before competition and get a good sleep because they think it will have a big effect on their performance.

But it doesn’t work like that. If you go to bed slightly earlier than normal because you want to get more sleep you won’t be very sleepy – that elastic band won’t be stretched.

If you go to bed earlier than normal and it’s a time when you’re not feeling sleepy, it will give you more chance to worry so you will spend more time in bed thinking.

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So don’t go to bed unless you feel sleepy. You wouldn’t go to a fridge unless you felt hungry but for some reason we tend to go to bed at certain times when we think we should go to bed, as opposed to when we should.

If you go to bed when you feel sleepy, you will fall asleep faster and will get better quality sleep.

3. Is it the right time of day?

People have a preferred bedtime and before this isolation we went to bed at a certain time driven by the time we needed to get up in the morning.

That has been removed a little bit and some people have the opportunity now to go to bed at a time that is suitable for them.

Even though we have more flexibility about our day, it’s important to keep a structured bed and wake time.

Once people have worked out what a suitable bedtime is for them, it’s important to establish some regularity around that. Our sleep works well when it’s regular. If your sleep times start chopping and changing, our sleep isn’t going to be great.

You don’t have to go to bed and wake up at the exact same time every day, but you create a sleep window and then there’s a bit of a buffer of about an hour either end. You can lie in for an extra hour or go to bed an hour earlier or later.

4. Is the place you are sleeping in familiar, safe and secure?

Most people will sleep in a bedroom which will be safe and secure. When we say is the space familiar, the question is is it familiar with them? But also, is it familiar with sleep?

It is great to keep the bedroom as a place of sleep where possible. If you can’t do that, you have to try to avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep.

And if you do have to use your bed for work, you could put a blanket over it during the day so that it looks different at night.

It can also help if you change your posture and sit upright so you are doing something differently to what you would do when you sleep.

5. Are you getting enough light exposure?

Our bodies are trained through exposure to light to be awake during the day and sleep at night.

At the moment we are all contained and going outside as little as possible for good reason but that brings about the challenge of not getting enough light exposure. If you get a constant low level of light there is no real distinction between night and day.

You have to be more creative, so if you are doing exercise try and do it in your garden. If you are going to sit down and work, try and do it next to a window.

That ensures we are training ourselves to be awake in the daytime and sleep when that light is not there at night.