Ritual, a practice, is what makes you perform day after day, year after year. At Spartan, we’re never about doing a fitness feat once. Selecting actionable, sustainable rituals that power your performance, push your limits and gain results is key to living the Spartan Way. In this series, we share how to build healthy rituals that last so you can optimize (and revolutionize) your life. Think: screw resolutions—this is for the long game. Let’s make rituals instead.
Sponsored by our partner, Ritual Zero Proof
You can stretch and roll, slam protein shakes, and take strategic rest days but the fact is: you won’t recover well unless you get some serious Zzz's. Sleep is perhaps most underrated (but most important!) to total-body rehab. When you skimp on it, you suffer—and so does your performance.
A recent study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine on sleep hygiene for optimizing recovery in athletes reinforces that sleep serves an “absolutely vital physiological function” to exercise recovery. Scientists assert that quality sleep should be part of the foundation of an athlete’s routine, just like nutrition and workout programs, saying it’s possible to train improved sleep quality. Doing so translates directly to better performance. “Therefore,” the study concludes, “the old saying ‘you snooze, you lose’ should actually read to athletes, ‘you snooze (more), you win’.”
But how, exactly, do you train yourself to sleep better? We’ve got you covered with our 7-day plan chock-full of healthy sleep hygiene habits to boost sleep quality. Integrate these, and no matter how hard you work out during the day, you’ll be able to perform Spartan strong, 100% of the time. Guaranteed.
Sleep and Athletic Performance: The Weeklong Plan to Snooze Smarter
Before You Begin:
Reinvent your sleeping space. Get your hands on sustainable, organic bedding and comfy pillows. (Yes, even bedding has a shelf life. Are you still sleeping on sheets from years ago? If so, it’s time to ditch ‘em and upgrade!).
Make sure you can sleep in complete darkness. Cover up or unplug any light sources in your bedroom. If light sneaks through your windows, score some blackout curtains. And consider a sunrise alarm clock, an awesome way to jumpstart your body’s biological clock in the a.m.
Similarly, ensure you can sleep in quiet. If noise outside your home disturbs you, mask it with a fan or white noise machine. The key? Set yourself up for success on the front end.
The Sleep-Better Plan:
This week-long plan helps you build a smarter pre-bedtime routine by introducing you to healthy habits, one at a time, to culminate into a better-sleep program that lasts.
Days 1-2 — Shut Down Your Devices, Strategically
Give yourself a bedtime you can stick to (say, 10 or 11 p.m.). Then, turn off your screens at least two hours before that time (so, 8 or 9p.m., respectively). LED light from device displays stimulate brain activity and block melatonin production, which prevents the signal to your body that it’s time to rest. This means no late-night Netflix or scrolling on Instagram. Seriously. (And if you absolutely need to send that work email, make sure you have a pair of blue-light glasses on hand to block LED light.)
Take two days to experiment with, and select, a shutdown-to-bedtime routine that’s sustainable for you. Hit the hay during a couple of different time slots to see which one gives you ample snooze time, but is also realistic on device turn off. This will help you embrace the habit long term.
Day 3 — Wise Up with Your Day-End Calories
A study published in Sports Medicine found that eating a meal 1-4 hours before bed can improve sleep quality if it contains proteins rich in tryptophan — like pumpkin seeds—and fast-absorbing starches—like pasta, rice or potatoes. One gram of tryptophan improves sleep quality, and your brain uses carbs to produce serotonin which is then converted to melatonin. A double win. At all costs, avoid sugar before bedtime which only prevents your body from winding down.
Day 4 — Take a Cold Shower
In the final hour or so pre bedtime, douse yourself under a cold shower. If you can’t manage a fully cold shower, start with warm water and end it with a minute or two under cooler temps. This lowers your body’s core temperature which helps support its biological clock and signals that it’s time to sleep. Spartan CEO Joe De Sena swears by this method. “As hard as it is, taking a cold shower about an hour before bed helps me 3X my sleep quality,” he says. Just remember to breathe as you get used to this uncomfortable (but worth it!) practice.
Day 5 - 7 — Cut Out Booze to Max Your Zzz's
The last simple tweak to optimize your sleep is to avoid alcohol consumption before bed. Contrary to common opinion, booze does not help you sleep better. In fact, it acts as a sedative, which prevents your body from reaching deep, quality REM cycle sleep (rapid eye movement). “While low to moderate doses, such as a glass of wine, may help you fall asleep initially, booze can negatively impact sleep quality by disrupting sleep later in the night,” says Marley Oldham Carnes, MS, RDN, CSCS. “We also know that as little as one drink can impact performance, so athletes should try to limit consumption of alcohol when possible to avoid wasted workouts.”
Limited sleep combined with alcohol puts your body under major stress, and impairs recovery putting you in a deficit cycle. Instead, Oldham Carnes recommends athletes avoid alcohol at all costs during intense training periods and opt for alcohol-free alternatives, like Ritual non-alcoholic tequila or an N/A hot toddy. If you must drink, she adds, give yourself 48 hours after alcohol consumption and before your next workout or competitive event.