Hey fam, Brittany…aka The Sleep Queen…here!

When I heard Coach Matt was planning to cover the importance of sleep in one of his weekly recovery blogs, I bullied him into…er…I mean, politely requested to be a guest writer because I’m so passionate about sleep and what it can do for your recovery! 

I’ve said it for years whenever someone asks me, but I still wholeheartedly believe that prioritizing sleep is the single most important thing you can do to maximize your recovery. I know, I know, going to bed “early” doesn’t make you feel like a badass nearly as much as doing a cold plunge, but I’m hoping by the end of this blog I’ll have you convinced why sleep is my favorite recovery tool…and should be YOURS too! 

The Science: 4 Stages of Sleep

First, a little science! Your body typically goes through 3-5 sleep cycles per night, and each cycle has 4 stages

  1. Light sleep is minimally restorative and is mostly used as a transition to deep sleep. You can be easily awakened during light sleep.
  2. Deep sleep (aka slow wave sleep) is the “physically restorative” stage of sleep. During this stage your body releases growth hormones, which allow your muscles and tissues to repair themselves and cells to regenerate. 
  3. REM sleep is the “mentally restorative” stage of sleep. During this stage your brain converts short-term memories made during the day into long-term ones. This is also when your most vivid dreams occur. 
  4. Awake is the last stage, which is included because it’s normal to be awake for several brief periods throughout the night. They only last for a few minutes at a time, and you’re usually not conscious of them. It’s common to experience 10-20 of these per night. 

The Benefits: How Sleep Helps Your Body Recover

So why does all of this matter? As you’re moving through the stages of sleep each night, a few key things are happening that are beneficial to you and your recovery.

Brain maintenance: The time spent cataloging memories during sleep makes accessing and using things you learn and remember easier and more efficient.

Energy conservation and storage: During the day, cells throughout your body use stockpiled resources to power you through your day—from crushing it at work to crushing your workout at the gym! Since you use less energy when you sleep, it allows your cells to resupply and stock up for the next day. 

Self-repair: When your body is less active and releasing more growth hormones, it’s easier to heal injuries and repair your muscles and tissues. 

How cool is that!? Your body literally goes to work while you sleep to help you be more recovered, both physically and mentally! 

How-To: Tips for Getting More Sleep

Now that you’re fired up and ready to reap the benefits of getting more sleep, here are my top tips for catching more zzz’s. Although there are certainly other factors that can also help to improve your sleep (e.g., limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, using blackout curtains, etc.), these are the ones that I’ve found to be most helpful, and that may not always be obvious! 

Spend more time in bed: The biggest mindset shift I had when I started prioritizing and tracking my sleep was realizing that the number of hours you spend in bed does not equal the number of hours you sleep! Remember how the fourth stage of sleep is awake? All the brief periods of time spent being “awake” during this stage throughout the night add up! Spending more time in bed maximizes the amount of time you actually sleep to get all the benefits and wake up feeling more recovered! 

Sleep Queen pro tip: A good rule of thumb is that I expect to lose about 45 minutes to an hour per night during the awake stages. So if I want 8 hours of sleep I plan to spend about 9 hours in bed each night. 

Set up a sleep routine: Similar to a morning routine, having a sleep routine can signal to your body that it’s time to wind down for the day and get ready for bed. Personally, I like journaling and drinking some type of “sleepy time” beverage (e.g., Beam, Thirdzy, etc.), but reading, meditating, or yoga are also great options. (Also try to stay away from screens here if you can, as blue light can suppress melatonin production and disrupt your circadian rhythm!)

Sleep Queen pro tip: Double up on your recovery benefits by adding foam rolling to your sleep routine, which Coach Matt discusses more in his Magic of Massage blog! 

Go to bed around the same time each night: Sleep consistency is huge for your body’s circadian rhythm! The more consistent you can be with going to bed and waking up around the same time each day (yes, even on weekends!), the more you are priming your body to expect sleep during that time. This helps your body to naturally produce the sleep hormone melatonin, which can improve your overall sleep quality. 

Sleep Queen pro tip: Set an alarm on your phone for when you want to start your sleep routine to help build the habit of going to bed at a consistent time each night. 

Try out these sleep tips and see what works best for you! You’ll be snoozing your way to a better recovery in no time! 

Sweet dreams,

Her Royal Highness Brittany, The Queen of Sleep