Perform at your best with these recovery techniques

Over the years at Sport Sleep Coach we have worked with high-level elite athletes who need to consistently perform at their best. This has led us to develop a range of simple, but effective techniques to improve performance in sport or work.

Know your chronotype –

Becoming aware of your chronotype enables you to plan your day according to this characteristic to aid performance. Chronotypes are a genetic trait and are usually easy to spot. Do you like staying up and going to bed late? Do you need an alarm to get you up for work in the morning? Are you partial to a nap in the daytime? Do you often sleep in on your days off? Then it's likely that you're a PMer. AMers wake naturally, enjoy their breakfast and love the mornings. They tend not to need an alarm to wake them, they're less likely to feel fatigued during the day and they go to bed reasonably early. 

Now you know your chronotype, you can begin to manage it for improved performance. For the PMer, daylight in the morning is vital if you want to set your body clock to play catch-up with the AMers. Get a dawn-wake stimulator, open the curtains and go outside. PMers should also cut out the lie-ins at the weekend, if you spend all week adjusting your body clock to the demands of your job, then let it all go at the weekend, your clock will drift back to its natural, slower state. AMers should utilise daylight during the afternoon when they begin to struggle, a daylight lamp at your desk is a good investment. AMers are more alert during the mornings so try to schedule important meetings, work or sports performances during the mornings and during the afternoon for PMers.

Blue light –

If used correctly, blue light can have a positive impact on performance. Blue light (daylight) is important as it stimulates serotonin production, which is our wake hormone, this can then be converted during the evening to melatonin, which is our sleep hormone.

Increase your exposure to blue light at times you need to be energised, alert and perform at your best. Going outside, being by a window or using artificial blue light such as a daylight lamp can all increase your exposure.

However, make sure you reduce this exposure during the evening to ensure you sleep easily. One way to effectively do this is through the use of blue light blocking glasses.

Recovery breaks –

We can’t sustain the levels of concentration we need when we’re working, so eventually, without a break, we’re going to become less efficient. We’re going to become fatigued and frustrated. If you’re able to step away from your work every hour then you should do so, but for many people this isn’t possible. However, if we look at recovery in 90 minutes it becomes a bit more possible, most of us can find a reason to get away from our environment every 90 minutes. No time for a break? Then make time. You’re going to be more efficient for having one, with refreshed levels of concentration and improved performance. It doesn’t have to be a major break. Go and make a cup of tea, go to the toilet, pop outside for a couple of minutes, get up and talk to a colleague or make a phone call. It doesn’t really matter – the point is that you’re moving away from the environment and mental state you are in to give your mind a little recovery window.

These ‘mind breaks’ every 90 minutes will improve your performance immediately after taking them, reduce stress levels, and they will accumulate during the course of the day to stop you feeling quite so tired in the afternoon and early evening.

Pre- and post-sleep routines –

Pre- and post-sleep routines can improve the quality of your sleep and performance, whilst reducing fatigue levels during the day. Your pre-sleep routine should begin 90 minutes before your sleep time and should contain some simple activities that are going to get you ready for sleep. For example, you can write down anything important that happened during your day or plan the following day. You should also avoid blue light (from technology) and make your room slightly colder (16 - 18C) than the rest of your house if possible, so you are moving into a cooler environment. Always keep your pre-sleep routine the same, this gets you into a routine that lets your body know it is time for sleep.

A post-sleep routine should last for 90 minutes from when you wake and will set you up for the day. During this time make sure you are exposed to as much daylight as possible (daylight lamps can be used during winter) and take time to eat breakfast, do some gentle exercises and tasks around the house before work or daily activities.