Many Compleat Golfer magazine readers have contacted me asking how to go about improving their quality of sleep. Here are a couple of things you can do to clean up your sleep routine and improve your sleep hygiene.
I’m afraid it’s not as simple as gripping your pillow tight and heading off to never-never land!
Firstly, you need to prioritise your sleep to ensure you get enough of it. So that Netflix binge session should not take preference! Try to keep a regular sleep schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time. Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, so work back from whatever time you need to be awake to start your day the next morning. It’s important to be very strict and disciplined when it comes to going to bed. Set a ‘lights out’ time and stick to that.
Be sure to create an optimal sleep environment. Your room needs to be cool, so adjust the temperature if you can. The optimal temperature is between 19 and 21 degrees Celsius, depending on your preference. The cooler temperature will allow you to use a duvet or blanket that will provide some comforting pressure on your whole body. This will help create a sense of comfort and safety that will allow you to fall asleep easier.
You don’t want any latent noise to wake you up, so make sure devices are turned off or tucked away in a drawer so as not to disturb you. You may want to use a white-noise machine to create some background noise if you cannot control outside noises disturbing you. I use a rain app when I’m travelling and the sound of a distant thunderstorm works like a charm.
A darkened room is also essential, so get yourself some blackout curtains and cover any control-panel lights that may startle you awake.
However, the most effective way to ensure you get a good night’s sleep is to have an efficient bedtime routine.
You should start this routine 45 minutes before ‘lights out’. Turn the television or computer screen off and head to your bedroom. You need to reduce your exposure to light and not all colours of light have the same effect.
The biggest killer of sleep is blue light, especially from your phone.
Blue wavelengths, which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times and mood, are therefore the most disruptive at night. Unfortunately our lives are dominated by electronics with blue wavelength-emitting screens during the day and especially at night. This, combined with the advent of energy-efficient lighting, has increased our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.
Before electricity, the sun was the major source of lighting and people spent their evenings in relative darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are artificially illuminated and we may be paying a price for basking in all that light.
At night, light throws the body’s biological clock, known as our circadian rhythm, out of whack. This is due to the fact the blue light from the screen suppresses the secretion of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us feel drowsy and starts us on the road to slumberland. We need to mitigate our exposure to this harmful blue light. Change the bulbs in your bedroom to emit a warm-white colour so your bedroom has a warmer, yellow hue similar to that of candlelight.
Do not have a television in the bedroom. It is detrimental to proper sleep routines, let alone your sex life!
If you are someone who has to work on a computer screen in the evenings, consider wearing blue-light blocking glasses for at least two hours before bedtime as these will help alleviate the effects of the screen.
The real issue with being on your phone so close to bedtime is that being on social media and trolling the internet stimulates the cognitive centres in the brain, the very parts we want to deactivate before heading to bed. Start winding down by putting your phone away, even leaving it in another room, as bringing it to the bedroom increases the temptation to ‘quickly check’. And don’t tell me you need it as your alarm to wake you up. Get an alarm clock!
One of my Tour players is the sleeping king and has primed his ability to get just the right amount before a tournament round. His recent wins have proved that he knows what he is doing! However, he has worked on his sleep hygiene and has figured out what he needs to do to get a good night’s sleep. He followed the basic advice listed here and if you do too, you’ll be on your way to more restful sleep.
– Milne is a golf fitness specialist who trains a number of professionals on the world’s pro Tours and emerging amateur players. Follow him on Twitter @SmileyMilne
– This article first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. The October 2021 issue is on sale now.