All the elite performance you can dream of starts with consistent habits. One of the most important habits is sleep.  The quality and quantity of sleep you get each night plays a vital role in not only physical recovery but also mental health. Sleep changes how well you learn, focus, and manage emotions (read that again). In this post, we’ll give you 6 ways to improve your sleep routine. Each will be discussed rapid fire. There is so much more to each topic, so I encourage you to do your own research if something is interesting to you. 

Light and Sleep

Our bodies have a built-in biological clock, often referred to as our circadian rhythm. When this works properly, you become  sleepy at the right times and awake at others. Now sports will often disrupt this rhythm. It’s not important that you are perfect. What is important is that you understand what to shoot. 

One of the most impactful ways to maintain a healthy rhythm is by managing your exposure to natural sunlight. Start your day by getting out in the morning light. This not only aids in waking you up but also helps set your internal clock for the day. In the evening, dim the lights to signal to your body that it’s time to start winding down. It also helps to see the setting sun light, so get outside again in the evenings. 

Avoid exposure to blue light from electronic devices in the evening as it can disrupt your sleep cycle. If this is unavoidable, consider using blue light blocking glasses or enable the “night mode” on your devices. 

Supplements and Vitamin D

While using supplements to enhance sleep should be a personal decision made in consultation with a doctor (or other healthcare professional), early morning exposure to sunlight can naturally increase your Vitamin D levels, which has been associated with better sleep quality. This is because the vitamin D allows your body to create more melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone. If you might be deficient in vitamin D, talk to someone about supplementing it (and take it early in the morning to get the best circadian rhythm)

Typically, natural melatonin boosts (like from consistent sleep habits) are better than supplementing melatonin.

Nap Wisely

While naps can be beneficial for recovery, they should be used wisely. You as an athlete will need some restful moments in your day. Typically after a hard training session there is the urge to nap. But think about not compromising your night’s sleep.  Extended naps or those taken late in the day can interfere with your nighttime sleep. If you do need a nap, keep it shorter and take it earlier in the day.

The Right Diet and Hydration

Eating the right type of food close to bedtime can affect your sleep. Get in touch with your body to learn (from your own perspective) what helps and hurts your sleep.

Additionally, taper your liquid intake before bed to minimize the need for bathroom trips that could interrupt your sleep.

Breath work for Better Sleep

Certain breathing techniques can help relax your body and prepare you for sleep. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique (inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds) or breath-holding exercises before bedtime to induce relaxation. Breath holds include a controlled pause (10-20 seconds) between normal breaths. Another style of relaxing breathing is box breathing, which follows a 4 second pattern of in-hold-out-hold. 

Caffeine Management

Caffeine is helpful to many athletes who choose to use it, but it also has a long half-life and can disrupt your sleep if consumed too close to bedtime. Limit your intake, particularly in the afternoon and evening, to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.


A 1% increase in how well you sleep each night will add up. You don’t have to be perfect. But being smart and disciplined on your sleep hygiene can change your life. Your mental sharpness and ability to manage your emotions will both be better according to how much you improve your sleep. If your sleep is a problem, aim to improve your average by 10% and see what happens. This is for athletes who know their sleep is a problem.

  • 6 hours + 10% = 6 hours 36 minutes (add 36 minutes)
  • 7 hours + 10% = 7 hours 42 minutes (add 42 minutes)
  • 8 hours (and you are still to fatigued) + 10% = 8 hours and 48 minutes (add 48 minutes)
  • optimizing your sleep routine can significantly contribute to your overall performance and mental health as an elite athlete.

Using the tricks above and some planning/discipline, this should be the simplest fix that totally changes your mental game in the long run.

Ending note: 36 extra minutes times 365 days per year equals another 219 hours of sleep a year. This might just be the difference between feeling healthy, happy, and prepared for challenges and not.