Thursday, September 17, 2015 by Sharon Nichols Keith Sleep to Compete

Up your athletic game by boosting your sleep game.

Sleep to Compete

Guidelines from Prof. Paul Gringras, MD on boosting your athletic game by improving your sleep game.

Prof. Paul Gringras, MD, is a professor of sleep medicine at Kings College London and a clinical practitioner with decades of experience treating people with complex sleep disorders. He’s also Leesa’s Scientific Advisor, and we’ll feature his writing on the Leesa Blog from time to time. Enjoy the post, then learn more about Prof. Gringras.

Since football season is just about in full swing and sleep affects your performance in any sport, it’s a good time to review your sleep game and make sure it’s maximizing your athletic game.

Born to Run?

You’ve been having restless nights and trouble falling asleep. Someone tells you that exercise might help, though you’re not convinced. You’re not managing as much exercise as you used to; a few months ago you joined a new gym (again). The induction went well and you went three times in that first week, but now you’re down to once a week, at best. And anyway, when you did drag yourself there for 20 minutes before work, it didn’t help you switch off at night. One time you went for a late-night jog and nearly got hit by a car. Afterwards, in bed, you were even hotter and more sleepless than usual.

Don’t be deceived; you’re actually doing better than most people. Don’t give up because you were given the right advice! You just need a bit more convincing and some tips to maximize the benefits.


“Think of it as a free medicine that works at every age: Research shows that exercise can help almost anyone, from young children to older adults who haven’t exercised in years.”

Exercise & Sleep

Exercise benefits nearly every facet of your wellbeing. Working out helps with stress levels, lowers blood pressure, improves moods, and yes, will also help you sleep better.

Think of it as a free medicine that works at every age: Research shows that exercise can help almost anyone, from young children to older adults who haven’t exercised in years. Any exercise is better than none, but since you already have the foundation (that gym membership lasts for another, what, two years?), there are some guidelines to keep in mind to make sure you’re getting the most from your workouts.

How hard you push yourself matters. A short, relaxed walk in the park might not be enough. Young people in particular need to exercise moderately hard, enough so that the heart rate increases significantly.

“Exercise” is a broad term. But if you want to truly get “fit for sleep,” here are some guidelines to follow.

  1. Keep it convenient. Find an exercise you can do for twenty minutes most days. To improve the chances that you’ll stick with it, choose a simple one that you can integrate into your daily routine. Cycling (either on a real bike or a stationary one) is great, as is a brisk walk, jog, or swim. Personal trainers are often worth the financial cost and pay off in increased focus and motivation.
  2. Timing matters. Try to time your workouts for between 4-7:00 pm. Forcing yourself to go to the gym first thing in the morning or late at night isn’t likely to help you sleep.
  3. 20 hot minutes. Research shows that 20 minutes is probably enough. But a short, relaxed walk in the park might not be high-intensity enough. Take it easy, aiming to become slightly out of breath. You should be able to talk but not sing.
  4. Five out of seven isn’t bad. Try to fit in at least five days a week. To really see the results, start keeping a sleep journal. Each morning, rate your sleep on a scale of one to 10; do this for a week before starting and at least a month after.
  5. Keep the big picture in mind. Remember to consider other factors that could be affecting your sleep, like that 4:00 Starbucks run or watching a horror movie before bed. The benefits of getting fit to sleep are huge, but they can be wiped out if other stuff is going wrong.

Good luck and happy, healthy sleeping!

Prof. Paul Gringras, MD, is a professor of sleep medicine and Leesa’s Scientific Advisor. He’s dedicated to supporting Leesa customers with the latest evidence-based information about sleep and its impact on wellbeing. Read more about Prof. Gringras, including his full biography, at the link.


Disclaimer: Sleep is a rapidly evolving area of research. Because new research findings come out on a daily basis, make sure you check back often for the latest information. Although Professor Gringras always tries to be comprehensive and accurate, his posts on the Leesa blog express his personal views based on the newest research and decades of experience treating patients with sleep disorders. Please remember that this is general information and it does not, in any way, replace advice from your own health care professional.


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