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3 Keys to Better Sleep


Whether it be for memory consolidation, creative process development, or immune function, sleep is a cornerstone for all things health, mental performance and lifespan in humans. Sleep has also been well researched in the sports realm, with strong links being made between sleep, performance and injury prevention. Research has shown that athletes who sleep less than six hours/night see a decline in: strength, power, time to exhaustion, aerobic output and fatigue resistance. In addition, a 2016 study involving NBA players showed that players who slept 8+ hours/night had a 30% increase in points per minute and a 40% decrease in turnovers, compared to their sleepy counterparts who slept less than 8 hours/night. Then there is injury prevention.  Research has shown that young athletes who regularly sleep 6 hours or less/night have a 35% greater risk of injury than their counterparts who sleep 8+ hours/night. 

So, you know that sleep is important, but how do you make it better? Here are 3 tips to improve your sleep. 

Be consistent. Maintaining a consistent schedule is important for training your body to shut down and most effectively cycle through the various stages of sleep during the night. Remember, your body is smart. If you train it to shut down at a certain time, it will cooperate with timely upregulation of melatonin, decreased body temperature, etc. But if your bedtime and sleep length is constantly varied, it’s a bit of a guessing game. What this means is you cannot disregard sleep all week and hope to ‘catch up’ by sleeping for extended periods of time on the weekend. Catching up on sleep is a myth. When you lose sleep rhythm it takes time to get back to your previous ‘level of performance’. This also means that if you stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights and try to resume your normal sleep schedule on Sundays, your body will likely feel a bit ‘jet lagged’ during the early part of the week. Sound familiar?

Get off your device. If you have not heard this before, climb out from underneath the rock and tune in. I may be beating a dead horse here, but it cannot be overstated how detrimental the light (blue light) from your ‘devices’ can be to your sleep cycles. You body counts on the appropriate amount of each stage of sleep each night in order to fully recover, recharge and prepare your mind and body for the next day. When you have exposure to light from your device until late into the evening, you delay the release of an important sleep hormone (melatonin) that starts the body down the path to a good night’s sleep. And do not kid yourself, just because you can fall asleep does not mean you are getting the appropriate amount of each stage of sleep. To optimize your sleep, shut your device off at least 1 full hour before tucking yourself into bed each night. 

Get the recommended amount of sleep. If you want to optimize your sleep, you need to ensure you are sleeping for the right length of time. Different sleep specificialist measure sleep length differently, but the easiest way to measure sleep is using good old fashioned time. As noted above, there is clear research on how the quantity of sleep you get affects your health, performance and lifespan. Below are the recommended sleep guidelines by age.

Table 1

Sleep Recommendations by Age


Required Sleep Hours







(National Sleep Foundation, 2015).


For more information on sleep, listen to this great podcast featuring sleep specialist Dr. Matt Walker. 



National Sleep Foundation. (2015). National sleep foundation recommends new sleep times. Retreived from

Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. New York, NY: Scribner.