Consistent, quality sleep is an essential component of general health and wellbeing. In athletes in particular, sleep can also have a massive impact on their physical and mental sporting performance.
These recommendations of the NCAA task force for sleep and wellness are based on the highest quality evidence and research available, and despite being tailored to athletes, also has some important messages and guidelines for the everyday individual.
The recommendations are:
1. Have a consistent and regular sleep schedule, including on weekends.
2. Seek bright light during the day (especially in the mornings) and avoid bright or artificial light at night when possible.
3. Keep bedrooms cool, dark and comfortable.
4. Avoid caffeine (including coffee and strong tea) for at least 6 hours before sleep times.
5. Avoid consuming food and drink in excess prior to sleep, as this can disrupt digestion and increase frequency of bathroom use.
6. Avoid checking the time in the middle of the night, as this can increase brain activity and alertness.
7. Individuals who find it hard to fall asleep should avoid naps during daytime.
8. Use the bed for sleep only! Other activities like watching TV, reading etc. should be done outside of the bedroom. This tunes the body to acknowledge the bed as a stimulus for sleep, and help improve sleep quality over time.
Individuals who follow these guidelines have better overall health, performance (both in sport/competition and at work), and mental alertness, including academic performance.
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