#Coldogblog (Colins first blog)

Welcome to my very first blog. Today I have decided to write about sleep and recovery. I wanted to share with you my experiences after trialling a number of methods over the last few weeks to see what impact they had on the quality of my sleep. I have been trialling these methods while I have been reading the aptly titled “Sleep” written by Nick Littlehales (@sportsleepcoach on Instagram).

Why the motivation to improve my sleep? I have been a pretty sound sleeper for the last couple of years, but like most things in life – I thought to myself “can I do this better?”

A quick background on my week – I work two jobs, one as a Coach (@cleanshred on instagram) and my second job is CFO (@footballnsw on instagram) – most weeks approximately 60 hours on average. I like to keep fit, so spend 10 -12 hours as a minimum focusing on that during the week, whilst trying to be a good husband and dad to our two little dogs, and more than rarely seen by my good friends! Definitely doesn’t make me the busiest person on the planet – however in aiming to be the best I can be at everything I do, I wanted to work on ways to make that aim more achievable.

I start work at the gym at 5am two days per week, begin my own training at 515am three days per week, and finish work after 7pm on average 3 days per week. Holding a senior management position at Football NSW means I also have to attend out of hours Board and Committee meetings that often finish much later at night.

What aspects of my sleep was I looking to improve? Two main things – the quality of it, and reducing the incidence of waking up well in advance of my alarm.

I am going to touch in a bit more detail on 2 specific aspects covered in “Sleep” that I have found to have a huge impact on improving my sleep:

  1. The 90 minute sleep cycle – one aspect of my sleep that I wanted to improve was the inconsistent gaps from when I would wake vs when I needed to actually get up. Some mornings, I would find myself waking up more than half an hour before my alarm and getting frustrated, whereas other mornings I would be woken by my alarm from a really deep sleep. Nick’s book talks about sleeping in 90 minute cycles (the duration of a full sleep cycle). So what have I been doing? My wake up time is set for the same time every day – however my bed time is set from counting back in 90 minute cycles to my wake time. So in my case, my wake time is 4am, so I could go to bed at 10pm for 4 cycles of 90 minutes, 830pm for 5 cycles, or 1130pm for 3 cycles.

The result – I have been waking consistently no more than 15 minutes before my wake time every day – and despite the early starts – been feeling much better during the day.

  1. The pre and post sleep routines – switching off is something I have been pretty good at for a while now – I don’t have my corporate job emails on my mobile phone, the only “push notifications” on my phone are missed calls and text messages, I write things down so my mind is not forever trying to remember a stack of different things. What has been a big factor in my improved sleep has also been a more effective pre and post sleep routine, which I see a bit like switching off at night, then switching back on the next morning. Starting my day in a relaxed and orderly manner is key to the next night’s sleep – so my wake time is set well in advance of the time (close to an hour) I need to leave the house – so I can take my time getting up, using light to wake myself up, have my shake to start the morning, and leave myself plenty of time to get to work. I feel like my day then builds nicely, and by the time I am instructing my first group class at 5:15am – I am firing on all cylinders – as I have had the time to “warm up.” At night, I start my pre-sleep routine at least an hour before my pre-determined sleep time – and the focus here is on reducing stimulus to relax myself and wind down for a restful sleep. I will not watch tv, check my phone, or sit on my laptop, instead I will have my last drink of water, take my supplements, brush my teeth (bright bathroom lights straight before you sleep are really counterproductive!!) and use the bathroom. I organise myself for the next day so everything is ready to go, then I will turn a lamp on in the bedroom to reduce the light, and the ceiling fan on to reduce the temperature in the bedroom. I will then go out to a quiet room in the house and read for the remaining amount of time before I need to go to bed. Moving in to the bedroom with reduced levels of light and cooler temperature makes it super easy for me to fall off into my first sleep cycle for the night.

Six things you could try right now to improve your sleep – here are some easy ones to get started on:

  1. Get in sync with your sleep cycles – your body operates in circadian rhythms – try and sleep in cycles of 90 minutes – set your sleep time off your wake time, which ideally should be the same each day. This will keep your body in a rhythm.
  2. Switch off – your body is sensitive to light, at least an hour before bed – turn the tv off, lose the phone, brush your teeth (avoiding the bright bathroom light just before bed!), find a book or just sit/stretch/relax – leave a lamp on in the bedroom to reduce the light, and keep it cool
  3. Switching on – give yourself time in the morning, a frantic wake up and rushing around sets the tone for the day, let your day build in a controlled manner
  4. Give yourself a break – practice switching off at regular intervals (every 90 minutes is ideal) during the day by taking a technology break – even for 5 minutes at a time – it’s a good thing to drift off every now and then – let the mind wander, disconnect
  5. Embrace the controlled recovery period (aka the nap) – half an hour from 1 – 3pm, or from 5-7pm are both opportunities for extra recovery, set an alarm to keep it controlled to half an hour
  6. Separate your bedroom from the other living areas in your house where possible

Future blogs will go into more detail covering other specific steps I have been taking to improve my sleep – I focused on the two main points as part of my approach to making my sleep more effective – why not give them a try and let me know what impact it has on the quality of your sleep?

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! Feel free to send me any feedback via colin@cleanshred.com.au or follow me on Instagram @coachcoldog for more content!

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