Brush Your Brain — Prioritize Your Sleep!

Just like brushing our teeth every day, we need to brush our brains. How? We need to prioritize our sleep. Within our Utah Lacrosse family, we harp endlessly on the need to honor our fundamentals (eating, sleeping, moving, and breathing) so we can have the energy we need to go all-in on accomplishing our goals on the lacrosse field, in the classroom, and within our personal relationships. When we get sufficient sleep we put ourselves in a position to show up at our best.  A good night of sleep is like taking a Zamboni to our brains so we can start the next day fresh.

Why don’t we prioritize our sleep? Did you know that human beings are the only species that actively tries to get inadequate sleep even though their body is screaming for it?

Naturally, our bodies know how to fall asleep and when they need to sleep (hint: you feel tired). For instance, you don’t need to tell a baby how or when to sleep! However, as we become adults we develop bad habits that get in the way of what we showing up and giving our best selves to the world. The solution is to patiently chip away at the layers of bad habits that cover up our natural ability.

Step 1: So, where to start? Well, when developing any good habit, a good place to start is with ‘your why’.  You need to have a purpose— a  reason to feel great waking up in the morning that is more important than being entertained.

Once, you have a strong “why”, you will be willing to pay the price of that trade-off to feel great the next day.  What do you need to trade in order to feel great?  Perhaps, going to bed an hour earlier means being out of the loop on the latest gossip of your favorite TV show.

Step 2: Once you firmly decide that you’re willing to pay the price, the next step is identifying the bad habits that are getting in the way of accomplishing your goals— common sleep kryptonite includes:

  1.  Food & alcohol
    • Solution: Don’t eat before bed.  Statistic shows eating 4 hours of sleep impacts your sleep.  You need to use your sleep ‘energy’ to repair your body not digest food.
  2. Digital Screens
    • Solution: Make your room dark. No sunlight no screens an hour before bed. Natural or screen lights will trigger your body to feel like it’s daytime. Set a “digital sunset” an hour before going to bed. No TV, no Cell phones!
  3. Exercising before bed
    • Solution:  Don’t exercise (stretching is okay! an hour before bed).   Exercise in the morning, honor your body’s natural rhythms. |Solutio
  4. Ruminating on anxious or depressing thoughts
    • Solution: Meditate, take a shower, read something uplifting before bed.  The goal is to clear your mind and stay present.
  5. Consuming “drugs throughout the day” Coffee, Melatonin, etc. disrupt your natural sleep cycles |
    • Solution: Plan when to use these products to align with your natural sleep cycles.

Eliminating these bad habits is easier said than done.  However, by setting a daily PM ritual, you can create a buffer zone and make a firm commitment to adhere to.  To change a bad habit we need a daily process that we can measure our progress.  You have complete control of your PM, the time when you can put your phone in airplane mode and ignore stimulus from the outside world.  Use this time to install positive habits that will promote good sleep.  A few habits that may work for you include: stretching, meditating, reading, and hanging out with friends or family

In closing, as athletes, optimizing our sleep is non-negotiable.  If we’re committed to the lifestyle of an elite athlete, we will be willing to pay the price to put ourselves in a position to show up at best the next day.