The science behind getting some good shut-eye and the steps you can take for sleep improvement

Rest and recovery are central to maximising the gains from your training, and that includes getting a good night’s sleep. Trouble is, training close to bedtime, consuming products containing caffeine, variable wake-up and go-to-bed times and even a cheeky daytime nap can all lead to sleep deprivation.

Now scientists working with elite football players have outlined pharmaceutical-free “sleep hygiene” plans to make pushing ZZZs as restorative as possible. Writing in the Journal of Sports Medicine, they say that: “sleep deprivation is best alleviated by sleep extension; however, sleep hygiene strategies (i.e. consistent sleep pattern, appropriate napping, and active daytime behaviours) can be utilised to promote restorative sleep.”

The researchers add that light has a profound impact on sleep, and they recommend strategies that support the natural circadian rhythms of the light–dark cycle such as red-light treatment prior to sleep and dawn-simulation therapy prior to waking.

“Consuming high-electrolyte fluids such as milk, high glycaemic index carbohydrates, some forms of protein immediately prior to sleep, as well as tart cherry juice concentrate may promote rehydration, substrate stores replenishment, muscle-damage repair and/or restorative sleep,” say the scientists.