Dr. Rebecca Robbins is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the NYU School of Medicine, whose research examines the link between sleep and performance as well as strategies for optimal rest and recovery. This year, she is partnering with the Beautyrest brand to put a renewed focus on sleep performance—noting the importance of how high-quality sleep can give everyone an edge to perform more effectively throughout their day and in their waking life.
Our sleep, both the time we spend sleeping and the quality of our slumber, play a vital role in our waking success. Sleep and its importance are all too clear when we cut our sleep short. Insufficient sleep leaves us prone to operating below our potential, taking longer than otherwise to accomplish tasks, struggling to come up with solutions to problems, having difficulty managing our mood and seeing our athletic performance and motor abilities suffer.
Sleep is a key ingredient to any recipe for success and optimal performance in your life. If you have cut your sleep short, or are simply looking to get more out of your sleep, here are a few tips on how to improve your sleep to fuel your daytime performance:
1. Find a bedtime and stick to it.
Unfortunately, when we move our bedtime around, such as 10pm one night and 2am the next night (which can be tempting for social obligations or professional deadlines), this practice puts your biological clock in limbo and makes it more challenging for you to fall asleep or reap the benefits of deep, restorative sleep. Find a bedtime that you can make work, ideally, for all nights of the week. Stick to that time and make sure to turn the lights off when your bedtime rolls around.
2. Create a bedtime ritual.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could switch off our minds like our iPhones? Sleep actually is a process and it does take time to unwind, prepare the mind and prepare the body for sleep. Prepare your body well by taking 30 to 90 minutes before bed to ease into sleep. Find a set of activities – or rituals – that are relaxing to you. You may choose to take a warm shower, read a few pages in a book, or do relaxation and meditation exercises. You may find yourself slipping into sleep before you know it.
3. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary.
Make a few changes to your bedroom to convert it into a sleep sanctuary. Design your bedroom with relaxing colors, and create this space as one devoted to rest and relaxation. Put the TV in another room. Also, make sure your bedroom is completely dark without any moon or city light creeping in through the curtains and turn your thermostat down to between 65 and 68 degrees. A cool body temperature is associated with shorter sleep latency (or time to fall asleep).
4. Refresh your mattress.
A top complaint associated with poor sleep is an uncomfortable bed. A good mattress will last you 8 to 10 years. Make sure your mattress supports your head, neck, and spinal column. If you are waking up with neck pain, find that your mattress slumps or dips or wake up feeling groggy and tired, it may be time for a new mattress. Invest in a mattress that will not only support your body – ideally with individually pocketed coils – but will also prevent motion transfer and promote air circulation, like those in the Beautyrest Black® mattress collection. Go to the closest mattress store and take your time. Lie on the various mattresses and read their composition. After all, you will (or hopefully will) be spending a lot of time on that mattress!
Finally, do remember that while sleep is a vital element, when it is coupled with a healthy exercise and nutrition routine, these combined behaviors can offer dramatic benefits across the board. Specifically, a well-rested person wakes up and is able to perform better in their workout. A well-nourished person who has fed on a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and lean meats is able to sleep better. A fit person who had a great workout will sleep better. But where does it all start? In the bedroom. Make sure that your mattress is supporting your spine, promoting air circulation, and providing support to optimize your sleep that will fuel your waking success.