12 FEBRUARY 2019
Broga bedtime routine: how to optimise your sleep and recover for your next class
What’s up Brogis, there’s a lot of hype surrounding ‘morning routines’ currently isn’t there? Every time I go to download a podcast, read an article or buy a book there’s a reference to ‘creating the ideal morning routine’. They say if you master the morning you master the day… And I happen to agree with this. In fact I tried to create the perfect morning routine for years. At first I just laid out an approximate time that I would wake up at and what I was then going to eat for breakfast on the different days of the week. Like with most things however, I quickly became obsessed with optimising and refining the small details in the routine, I was timing my cold shower, devising a timed and sequenced morning yoga practice, counting the number of brush strokes on my teeth with fluoride free organic toothpaste and then blending around 20 different exotic ingredients in a morning shake – think cocoa, spirulina, macca root, ginseng and bee propolis.
I actually have a – much simpler – version of the morning routine in place now but I really struggled with it back then not just because of the complexity but because of one other much more seemingly obvious detail – I had no nighttime routine! Back then I was eating pizza, drinking whiskey and falling asleep around one or two am whilst watching… Whatever we used to watch before Netflix… A dvd?
I’m not naturally inclined to rise early and the combination of poor sleep quality, lack of total sleep hours and the dauntingly complex morning routine made adherence remarkably low.
And so eventually I researched to death, created – and then again, simplified! – an awesomely effective bedtime routine which allows for optimal recovery and restoration. This routine will have you ready to jump out of bed and hit the subsequent morning routine out of the park.
We’re going to look first at the environment: When and how should we go to bed? (there’s a little more to it than simply hitting the lights and pulling over the covers), what supplements and nutritional protocols we can employ to get the maximum benefit from our total head to pillow time and finally you’ll want to stick around to read the final recommendation -which is only for the most hardcore and hard living of bro’s! Let’s get into it…
When Should We Sleep?
Your body produces the majority of your recovery hormones between 10pm and 2am – including but not limited to testosterone and melatonin. Melatonin encourages the subsequent production of growth hormone which is so beneficial to athletic performance and recovery that intravenous supplementation is prohibited from Olympic and other governed forms of physical competition. The benefits of increasing growth hormone in athletes are so profound that many argue a lifetime ban would be appropriate for any participant testing positive for elevated levels. We can optimise this production naturally by simply sleeping through this optimal four hour time period.
According to Clinical Psychologist, Dr Jordan Peterson, we should aim to sleep in regular patterns for our mental wellbeing and Strength trainer and athlete Elliot Hulse further compounds the argument for this as he states that his one non-negotiable protocol is a consistent sleep schedule – “I don’t mess with my circadian rhythm.”
The National Sleep Foundation tells us that on average it takes ten to twenty minutes to fall asleep (sleep.org 2019) and so we surmise that the optimal time to get into bed must be nine forty five… I know what you’re thinking, I often don’t get back home until that time either! But we can at least look next at how to create an environment which will get us into a deep and high quality sleep as quickly as possible.
How Should We Sleep? Creating the environment…
First of all it’s advisable that a sleeping environment is simple and tidy -perhaps even minimalist. It’s said in Feng Shui that a tidy and calm environment will create a calm and unchaotic mind. Secondly, avoid blue light for as much of your nighttime hours as possible. The blue light from a phone screen or a TV is interpreted by our mind and body as sunlight and so it causes us to shutdown the rising ‘sleep pressure’. Blackout curtains, turning your phone on night mode, removing screens from the bedroom and perhaps even getting a pair of blue light blocking glasses are all useful suggestions for blue light avoidance. You can continue light blocking even into your hours of sleep by wearing a comfortable eye-mask.
Did you know there’s a correct temperature to sleep at? The human body actually favours quite a cold environment so I tend to turn the heating off early and open all the windows at least half an hour before hitting the pillow. If it’s the summer then turning up the air-con could be a smart strategy. Wear a tee to sleep in or buying a thicker duvet is absolutely sensible as it isn’t your body temperature which needs to be cold while you sleep but rather the room temperature.
This being said an elevated body temperature, from a late evening workout for example, could diminish sleep quality and so global fitness influencer and trainer Ben Greenfield recommends taking a cold shower in the instance that training has been undertaken after seven in the evening.
Finally, theres also an audible aspect to creating the perfect sleep environment. Most people find it helpful to create some type of white noise for not only getting off to sleep but for a low level drowning out of the type of noise pollution typical to an urban environment -think police sirens and housemates slamming doors. Ear plugs are also helpful and I personally use both. There are many different free apps which will provide you with a selection of relaxing soundscapes – from waves and airplanes to running water.
What are the best nighttime supplements?
First and foremost we want to breath through our nose while we sleep rather than putting our body into a state of stressful mouth breathing all night if we are going to feel energised rather than fatigued when we rise in the morning. Mouth breathing tends to stimulate the receptors in the upper chest which creates an adrenalised response – think about how you would tend to breath short and shallow through your mouth in a state of panic. Conversely when we are deeply relaxed we find ourselves breathing long and slow through the nose which directs the breath into the lower lobes of the lungs and stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system – enhancing our ability to relax and find a restorative period of sleep (McKeown 2015). For this we can avoid eating too late into the evening or drinking alcohol as this will potentially inflame the nasal passage. We can drink a chamomile tea to enhance muscle relaxation, and hence recovery, while sleeping and use magnesium oil and zinc to further improve our ability to get into a restorative deep sleep.
Additional supplements we could try if we are still struggling to get to sleep with the above protocol would be to explore effective herbal sleep remedies such as passion flower extract, ashwagandha and holy basil extract. These herbals supplements can be taken in pill form, tincture or sometimes as a tea which makes them great alternatives to alcohol for winding down and relaxing. They have many additional benefits but chiefly are great for reducing anxiety – which often presents itself at the end of the day and inhibits sleep.
For Hardcore Bro’s!
And to be honest, this one is probably for single bro’s too! What I’m recommending here is sleeping on the floor.
Now this sounds extreme but you don’t have to jump all in with both feet immediately – or ever! To start receiving the awesome benefits of sleeping on the floor you could structure it in the form of a short daytime nap. I found myself beginning to practice sleeping on the floor when I was teaching early morning and then lunchtime yoga classes in London. There would be a break of an hour between class one and class two which meant it wasn’t worth my time to leave and return later. Instead I’d roll out a yoga mat, play some white noise on my phone, put on an eye-mask and then lie down on my back and sleep for forty five minutes.
A yoga mat can give you a little protection and cushioning from the hard ground so you don’t have to go full Shaolin monk! And you can add a pillow or rolled up towel under the neck/head too.
It may seem like its going to be impossible to sleep like this but I’m sure if you’ve practiced yoga for any period of time that you’ve had the bizarre experience of waking up at the end of class still in savasana – corpse pose!
When we sleep on the floor our posture actually improves -stretching out rather than slouching and rounding into an extra soft mattress. There are many top athletes who utilise this practice. Parkour runner and Ninja Warrior competitor Tim Shieff has spoken of experiencing tremendous physical benefits in terms of recovery from sleeping on the floor. Tim also speaks about noticing a decline in his recovery when going back to sleeping in a bed.
So there it is guys! If you want to recover and perform like a beast as well as chase down and jump aboard this current morning routine movement then you’ve got to get your bedtime routine straight first. Use the above and by all means add your own personal touches to it. I’ve spoken to friends who take epsom salt baths, spray lavender oil on their pillows, read books or even do some gentle passive stretching before bed. Let us know any of your additional sleep techniques!
Try not to go into the creation of any new habit or routine with a fixed mindset – kind of like an all or nothing, make or break attitude where your success defines you as a person. You will likely find success comes more easily and lastingly in nature by implementing each step of the routine individually and gradually. Ie: if you’re currently waking up at ten and you want to wake up at nine then perhaps go to nine forty five and then move to nine o clock over a period of months. If you sleep in one day, just assess the reasons why, make any necessary changes and start again the very next morning other than writing off the new routine and yourself in the process.
Good luck with waking up to your best self.
Thank you and goodnight,