Recover Better Through Better Sleep: Sleep Aids That Can Help You Improve the Quantity and Quality of Your Sleep

Last Sunday’s afternoon long run was a tough one! The run was hilly and I threw in a few hill sprints to make it even more challenge. After I performed my strengthening exercises and cooldown, I was ready to go to bed! This reminded me of the importance of recovery and different ways to we can recover to get the benefits from a tough training run. Click this link to read this previous post:

Marathon Training 2019 Day 18: How To Get Better Sleep and Sleep’s Importance As Part of Recovery Part 1

One of the most important modes of recovery is sleep. The amount and quality of the sleep (it should be a high quality deep sleep, in which you go into a deep sleep throughout the night) that we get are most important to our recovery and will help facilitate the adaptations stimulated by our tough training run, so that we can become a better runner. After all, if we are doing a tough run to become a better runner, we ought to get the benefits from our effort!

To help me improve the quality and quantity of my sleep, I took a teaspoon of magnesium chelate (the brand I use is Garden of Life and usually take the Raspberry Lemon flavored one. Disclaimer: I have no affiliations or investment with Garden of Life) before I went to bed that night. I also used a guided meditation/hypnotherapy, and not only fell asleep quickly, but was able to sleep well throughout the night.

There are other sleep aids that I have used, and you may have used a few of these as well. I will discuss a few of these below and continue with more in the next. This is not an exhaustive list, but there may be a couple that might help make it easier for you to catch more Z’s and better facilitate the recovery process from your training runs:

Lower the room temperature in which you sleep

  • This one you may need to experiment with to find the temperature which works best, however you should adjust the room temperature to somewhere between 60-75 degrees Farenheit.
  • Also, taking a warm bath or shower before going to bed can help speed up the body’s temperature change. As you body cools down afterwards, this can help send a signal to your brain to go to sleep.

Meditation/Hypnotherapy/Breathing Techniques/Listening to Relaxing Music Such as Buddhist Chants

  • Sometimes my wife and I use a guided yoga shavasana from her yoga instructor that has helped us fall asleep
  • You can also using a breathing technique such as the following:
    • First, place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth and make a whoosh sound.
    • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose while mentally counting to four.
    • Hold your breath and mentally count to seven.
    • Open your mouth and exhale completely, making a whoosh sound and mentally counting to eight.
    • Repeat this cycle at least three more times.
    • Initially, you may need to shorten the counts for holding your breath and exhalation
  • Listening to relaxing, soothing, and sedative music can improve sleep quality. Research has shown that Buddhist music created from different Buddhist chants for meditation can also been an effective sleep aid.

Get on a Regular Sleep Schedule

  • Our body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, cues the body to feel alert during the day and sleepy at night. Waking up and going to bed at the same times each day can help your internal clock keep a regular schedule.
  • You should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Get Light Exposure During the Day, But Minimize Exposure At Night

  • Irregular light exposure can disrupt circadian rhythms and negatively impact the production of melatonin, a hormone essential for sleep
  • Therefore you should be exposed to light during the day (this should include natural light), however minimize light exposure at least 30-60 minutes (avoid screens, such as phone, computer, TV) before doing to bed and while sleeping (may consider using blackout curtain)
  • Disconnect all electronics and put away computers and mobile phones, so you can ensure a quiet place, free of distractions.

Journal and Visualize Things That Make You Happy

  • Journaling 15 minutes before bed can be helpful. Write down how you are feeling at that moment, including both positive and negative thoughts, including any stress and anxiety you are feeling.
  • Practice and concentrate on an environment that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed to help you fall asleep. You might also incorporate gratitude.

Aromatherapy

  • Use an essential oil diffuser which will infuse your room with relaxing scents that encourage sleep.
  • Research has demonstrated that lavender and damask rose oils have been effective for sleep.

In the next post, I will discuss other sleep aids that can improve sleep quantity and quality, including foods and supplements.

If you have, or suspect you have sleep apnea, you should meet with a specialist, if you haven’t already, to be assessed and have a treatment plan developed for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Sleep well.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-fall-asleep

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“A warm footbath before bedtime and sleep in older Taiwanese with sleep disturbance.” Liao WC, Chiu MJ, Landis CA. Res Nurs Health 2008 Oct; 31(5): 514-28.

“An official American Thoracic Society Statement: The importance of healthy sleep. Recommendations and future priorities.” Mukherjee S, Patel SR, Kales SN, Aya NT, Strohl KP, Gozal D, Malholtra A, American Thoracic Society ad hoc Committee of Health Sleep. Am J Respir Crit Care Md 2015 Jun 15; 191 (12(: 1450-8.

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“Music therapy improves sleep quality in acute and chronic sleep disorders: a meta-analysis of 10 randomized studies.” Wang CF, Sun YL, Zang HX. Int J Nurs Stud. 2014 Jan 51(1): 51-62.

“Sedative music facilitates deep sleep in young adults.” Chen CK, Pei YC, Chen NH, Huang LT, Chou SW, Wu KP, Ko PC, Wong AM, Wu CK. J Altern Complement Med 2014 Apr: 20(4):312-7.

“Effects of music videos on sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with chronic insomnia: a randomized control trial.” Lai HL, Chang ET, Li YM, Huang CY, Lee LH, Wang HM. Biol Res Nurs 2015 May; 17(3): 340-7.

“Effects of Constructive Worry, Imagery Distraction, and Gratitude Interventions on Sleep Quality: A Pilot Trial.” Digdon N, Koble A. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 24 May 2011.

“The effects of aromatherapy on sleep improvement: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis.” Hwang E, Shin S.  J Altern Complement Med 2015 Feb: 21 (2): 61-8.

“Effect of lavender aromatherapy on vital signs and perceived quality of sleep in the intermediate care unit: a pilot study.” Lyttle J, Mwatha C, Davis KK. Am J Crit Care 2014 Jan; 23(1): 24-9.

“Effect of Rosa damascene aromatherapy on sleep quality in cardiac patients: a randomized control trial.” Hajibagheri A, Babaii A, Adid-Hajbaghery M. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2014 Aug; 20(3): 159-63.

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