Post By: Stephanie Falotico, LMSW | Wednesday, June 24, 2020

sport psychology performance STRESS sleep

If professionals, performers, and athletes had a better understanding how their sleep habits and hygiene impacted their performance, sleep would become more of a priority. As a former neuro and biofeedback provider, I had the ability to witness first-hand using Electroencephalogram (EEG) technology, how sleep, or lack thereof, directly correlated to declines in an individual's slow-moving brainwaves.

Delta waves are generated when our brains enter a deep meditative and or dreamless sleep state. Athletes and performers should especially care about their delta waves because they also are responsible for healing and regeneration. Studies have shown a correlation between sleep and testosterone levels. When sleep is restricted, there is evidence of decreased testosterone. Furthermore, lower testosterone equals higher risk of tendon injury. For example, a study was completed in which results showed males with lower testosterone levels had a higher number of Achilles ruptures than their male counterparts with higher or normal levels of testosterone.

For those who are tasked with presenting the next big idea, pitching the next worldwide marketing campaign, or kickstarting the next global nonprofit, listen up. You need your sleep too. Think about how you feel in the morning after a poor night's sleep. How do you feel throughout the day after? Are you counting down the hours, minutes, until you can sleep again? Lack of delta waves are also responsible for low energy, poor focus and concentration, increase in irritability, and slower ability to process and recall information.

So, what can be done? What steps can you take right now, today, before you hit the pillow tonight? Let's take a look.

Don't play where you sleep

Our brains and body are really really smart. Often subconsciously, our brains and body create associations. For example, think of a time a song came on the radio and you were instantly transported to your friend's house when you were 12. Or how about you pass a store and it smells like the candle your mother always had burning in your childhood home. Your bedroom should be for sleep only. When you begin doing work, watching tv, playing video games in your bedroom, your body begins to associate that space as a place for play or work, not rest. This is why some people feel restless when they try to sleep, because their bodies are thinking they should be doing something. If you do find yourself restlessness in bed, do get up, walk around, and stretch a bit to help ease the restlessness.

Stick to a schedule

Sticking to a sleep wake schedule will assist in balancing out one's circadian rhythm. Once your body understands what is expected of it at different times of the day, again, the associations will be developed. You ever have those times when you wake up five, ten minutes before your alarm? Association. Your body and brain have adjusted and know they have an expectation to start firing around that time every day. Similarly, at the end of your day, when your body understands that it's almost time for bed, your body and brain should start to slow down, you feel more lethargic, might even look at the time and realize it is nearly time for bed!

Watch what you eat

Be mindful of how close to bedtime you are eating heavy meals. Yes, big meals will make you feel bogged down, and lethargic, and you may even nod off. However, what goes on internally is what will keep you up. There has been much research completed on the mind-gut connection. Our diet and gut health directly impact our mental health. Anytime you eat anything, your brain has to be active to aid the digestion process. Therefore, if you are eating heavier meals close to the time you are hoping to fall asleep, you may fall asleep, but you likely won't stay asleep. If you do find yourself needing a small bed time snack, or even midnight snack, reserve some foods that have natural melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep, as an ingredient. Cherries or bananas are examples.

Relax your Retinas

We live in a wonderful world with so many technological advances. The technology is great, until it isn't. And it isn't, at nighttime. Think about it for a moment here. How many screens are in your home that you may come across within the two hour span before bed? I have a personal cell phone, a work cell phone, a personal laptop, a work laptop, a tablet, and a tv. Do I come into contact with all of these every night before bed? No. But some nights, yes. I am a professional multitasker and some things simply cannot wait. Call it occupational hazard maybe, but what happens is that all of these devices are emitting what is known as blue light. When this blue light hits our eyes, it actually activates our brain. Furthermore, behind the scenes, this blue light is inhibiting the production of the hormone melatonin. If you must be on your phones in bed, or scrolling through on the couch while the tv is on in the background, at least put a blue light filter on your phone and reduce the brightness of your tv. At the very least, eliminate electronics thirty minutes prior to bed.

I challenge you to reflect and evaluate where there is room for improvement with your sleep habits and hygiene. These are only a few areas that have been discussed above, but simple, nonetheless. Pick one or two of those discussed in this post and be intentional about practicing and implementing them over the next week.

If you are interested in learning more about sleep and its correlation with performance, let's connect today and get you on your way to better sleep and better performance. If you are outside of the state of Michigan, please review and connect with one of our other mental performance coaches on the Mindurance platform.