TWEAKS 2 MYC #26: SLEEP ERGONOMICS

Philadelphia Eagles v Kansas City Chief

Quality sleep plays a crucial role in “mastering your craft” because this is when your body takes the time to restore its immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. Adults generally need 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night to function well during the day.

However, even if you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, it’s essential that you get “quality sleep”. Quality sleep is generally characterized by sleeping more time while in bed (85% of the time), falling asleep in 30 minutes or less, waking up no more than once per night, and being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep (Ohayon et al., 2017).

Researchers found that for subjects sleeping an average of 7 hours per night, sleep quality, compared to sleep quantity, was better related to measures of health, emotional balance, life satisfaction, and feelings of tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion (Pilcher, Ginter, & Sadowsky, 1997).

Although there are numerous lifestyle changes that you can make to improve the quality of your sleep (e.g., exercising, going to bed at the same time each night, not using electronics 30 minutes before bed, reducing the temperature in your room), a quick and easy way to do this is to sleep with an extra pillow!

Sleeping with an extra pillow will ensure that your spine is aligned and your lower back is not strained.

Below are the basic instructions on where to place your extra pillow based on your sleeping position:

  • Back sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow under your knees
  • Stomach sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow under your stomach/pelvic area
  • Side sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow between your knees

Picture Tweaks to MYC 26 (2)This small tweak should allow you to have a more restful sleep! Try it out!

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

References

Ohayon, M., Wickwire, E. M., Hirshkowitz, M., Albert, S. M., Avidan, A., Daly, F. J., Dauvilliers, Y., … Vitiello, M. V. (2017). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep quality recommendations: First report. Sleep Health, 3, 6-19.

Pilcher, J. J., Ginter, D. R., & Sadowsky, B. (1997). Sleep quality versus sleep quantity: Relationships between sleep and measures of health, well-being and sleepiness in college students. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 42, 583-596.

TWEAKS 2 MYC #19: MUSIC

Picture Tweaks to MYC 19

It’s safe to say that most of us have experienced the power of music. I’m sure that everyone who listens to music can think of at least one song that has shaped them into the person they are today. This is because music can make you feel a vast array of emotions. It can inspire you. It can make you smile, cry, love, hate, relax, or dance!

Music can therefore be a powerful tool that can help you “master your craft”. When used thoughtfully, it can have a tremendous positive impact on your mind and body! Music can optimise arousal, reduce perceived exertion during submaximal exercise, increase positive emotions, and improve energy efficiency (Karageorghis & Priest, 2012).

More specifically, you can listen to music before a competition or during a training session to get yourself into “the zone” (i.e., increase or decrease your arousal). In addition, you can listen to it during a hard training session to dissociate yourself from the fatigue that you are experiencing (e.g., focus on the lyrics and/or beat rather than your “burning muscles”).

Below are the basic instructions on how to create your own personalized playlist:

  • Give yourself 30 minutes to complete this exercise
  • Determine exactly how you would like to feel before a competition or during a training session
    • Do you want to increase or decrease your arousal?
  • Select songs that will help you feel the way you want to feel
    • Increase arousal (>120 bpm)
    • Decrease arousal (<80 bpm)
    • Consider the lyrical content
  • To create a cohesive music mix, think about
    • Beat matching
    • Style matching
    • Artist matching
    • Era matching

Although music is associated with an increase in physical and mental performance, not everyone should listen to it before a competition or during a training session. You should avoid listening to music when learning a new motor task or during high-intensity exercises that require your full attention. Furthermore, some people are better able to get themselves into “the zone” by not listening to music. For instance, Matthias Steiner, gold medalist in weightlifting at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, stated in an interview: “A lot of other guys listen to music, but I intentionally don’t. I leave it all at home, because I want to feel the atmosphere, if I listen to music I’ll be distracted”.

The important point here is that you must figure out what works best for you! If music helps you feel the way you want to feel then create your own personalized playlist!

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

Reference

Karageorghis, C. I., & Priest, D.-L. (2012). Music in the exercise domain: A review and synthesis (Part II). International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5, 67-84.

TWEAKS 2 MYC #16: POWER BREATHS

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In one of my previous blog posts (TWEAK 2 MYC #6), I talked about how you can use your breath to achieve a state of deep relaxation. I will now discuss how you can use your breath as a way to “psych” yourself up.

Everyone feels slightly tired at some point during the day, whether it be after sitting down and working for several hours in your office or between heavy sets in the gym. Although this is normal, it’s far from ideal!

Since we live in a very competitive environment, we need to have the ability to perform at an optimal level even when we’re tired. However, drinking too much coffee (or energy drinks) is unhealthy and sometimes we don’t have the luxury to find a quiet place to nap for 20 minutes. Therefore, we need to find a healthy and quick alternative to boost our energy levels.

“Power breaths” is an effective strategy that you can use anywhere and at any time to “psych” yourself up and increase your overall alertness. “Power breaths” are a controlled and voluntary form of hyperventilation.

Taking short, hard, deep breaths will create respiratory alkalosis. Respiratory alkalosis is characterized by an increase in blood pH level (more alkaline). Sakamoto and colleagues (2013) found that participants who used “power breaths” during recovery intervals of repeated sprint pedaling improved their performance because it decreased their levels of metabolic acidosis.

Moreover, these types of powerful breaths will trick your body into activating your sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response). Your pupils, lungs, and blood vessels will dilate and your heart rate will increase so you can better deal with the situation that you find yourself in.

Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight. Place your hands on your hips. Open your mouth as wide as possible. Take 10 short, hard, deep breaths. Make sure that when you inhale, you push your abdomen out fully so you can get in as much air as possible. When you exhale, simply allow your abdomen and chest to naturally relax. Do not exhale forcefully!

You may feel slightly dizzy and have a tingling sensation in your limbs. This is normal. However, if you do not enjoy this feeling or do not feel comfortable, then stop immediately. In addition, do not do this breathing exercise if you have an anxiety disorder or a respiratory problem.

Once you feel comfortable with 10 breaths, then you can increase the number of “power breaths” that you take during each session. Make sure that you constantly monitor how well you feel after doing this breathing exercise.

Use “power breaths” to increase your alertness at work, school, or when you are doing physical activity (before or during training/competition).

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

Reference

Sakamoto, A., Naito, H., & Chow, C.-M. (2014). Hyperventilation as a strategy for improved repeated sprint performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28, 1119-1126.

TWEAKS 2 MYC #13: COLD SHOWERS

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Summer is just around the corner, which means that the days are going to get hotter and more humid. Therefore, it’s a great time to add “cold showers” into your daily routine!

Most of us do everything we can to remain comfortable. We rather stay inside when the weather is too hot or cold. All too often, we don’t push ourselves hard enough when we’re at the gym. Also, we are guilty of using technology to conserve our energy and make our lives easier (too easy sometimes).

However, having this kind of attitude will surely prevent you from becoming the best version of yourself. You need to step out of your comfort zone and face resistance if you want to keep growing! Having a “cold shower” every day is a great way for you to learn how to be comfortable with uncomfortable situations.

Since most of us view cold water as an aversive stimulus, we can use it as a tool to build our mental toughness. By exposing yourself to cold water every day, you will learn how to effectively cope with so-called unpleasant feelings (e.g., anxiety, fear, anger, pain). The secret is to remain present with those feelings and not judge them. You need to stop categorizing certain feelings as negative and just experience them for what they are. By doing so, you will remain more relaxed and confident when faced with challenging situations.

Apart from building your mental toughness, “cold showers” are associated with a multitude of other health benefits. Cold water immersion can increase your alertness, boost your immune system (Janský et al., 1996), decrease muscle soreness (Bleakley et al., 2012), and potentially fight off depression (Shevchuk, 2008).

From now on, immerse yourself in cold water at the end of every shower you take. Step back from the water, take 3 deep breaths and relax (close your eyes if you need to). Then turn the shower knob from hot to cold (preferably to the coldest setting). Immerse your body parts in the following order: feet, legs, thighs, hands, arms, torso, face, head, and back. As you immerse each body part, make sure that you focus on your breath. Take long, deep breaths and do not allow yourself to hyperventilate. If you do hyperventilate, it’s okay, your body simply needs to get used to it. Moreover, don’t judge your experience. Refrain from telling yourself that you feel terrible and cold. Just be with the cold and let yourself feel its rejuvenating power as much as possible. Start by immersing yourself in cold water for 15 seconds and then add 5 seconds to your total time each week until you reach 60 seconds. At that point, you can decide to step directly into a “cold shower” (without washing yourself first with warm water) to make your new daily routine a little bit more challenging.

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

References

Bleakley, C., McDonough, S., Gardner, E., Baxter, D. G., Hopkins, T. J., Davison, G. W., & Costa, M. T. (2012). Cold-water immersion (cryotherapy) for preventing and treating muscle soreness after exercise. Sao Paulo Medical Journal, 130, 5, 348.

Janský, L., Pospíšilová, D., Honzová, S., Uličný, B., Šrámek, P., Zeman, V., & Kamínková, J. (1996). Immune system of cold-exposed and cold-adapted humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 72, 445-450.

Shevchuk, N. A. (2008). Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical Hypotheses, 70, 995-1001.

TWEAKS 2 MYC #7: POWER NAPS

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A beneficial practice that you can incorporate into your daily routine and that can help you “master your craft” are power naps. A power nap involves sleeping for a short period of time during the day to curb your drowsiness and improve your energy levels.

Many of us don’t get enough sleep (less than 7 hours) because we go to bed too late and need to wake up early to go to work or school. Among other things, sleep deprivation can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness, memory lapses, and irritability.

Therefore, if it’s not possible for you to improve the quantity and quality of the sleep that you get every night, you can supplement your sleep with short or long power naps. Short power naps are between 10 to 20 minutes in duration and are used to enhance your alertness and boost your energy levels if you feel slightly tired during the day. They involve the lighter stages of the sleep cycle so it makes it easier for you to go back to what you were doing when you wake up. On the other hand, long power naps are 90 minutes in duration and are used to recuperate from a bad night of sleep (e.g., only sleeping 4 hours, restless throughout the night). They involve a full sleep cycle (light and deep stages of sleep) so it will leave you feeling fully refreshed when you wake up.

However, are 30, 45, or 60-minute naps worth it? The only issue with these types of naps is that you will wake up from a deeper stage of sleep which will leave you feeling groggy for a good portion of the day. I believe that these types of naps are counterproductive if your objective is to feel refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of your day.

In addition, make sure that you nap early in the afternoon, if not, you might have trouble falling asleep at night because your sleep cycle will be disrupted.

Find a dark and quiet place to nap. If it’s not possible, use some ear plugs and a sleeping mask! Lie down or sit in a reclining chair (135-degree angle if possible). Choose between a short or long power nap, depending on your needs. Set your alarm. Relax and focus on the sensations in your body instead of thinking about what’s on your to-do list.

The following study demonstrates how short power naps can improve task performance. In 1999, Hayashi and colleagues placed 7 young healthy adults into two different conditions at 1 week intervals. In the first condition, they were asked to nap for 20 minutes during the day. In the second condition, they were asked to rest for 20 minutes on a semi-reclining chair without sleeping. The results of this study showed that the participants perceived that taking short power naps helped them decrease their sleepiness and increase their task-performance and self-confidence, compared to simply resting on a chair for 20 minutes.

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

Reference

Hayashi, M., Watanabe, M., & Hori, T. (1999). The effects of a 20 min nap in the mid-afternoon on mood, performance and EEG activity. Clinical Neurophysiology: Official Journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology, 110, 2, 272-9.