How to sleep like a baby before dawn patrols

The dilemma of sleepless nights before an early dawn patrol session, especially when a swell is forecasted, is familiar to us all. Mastering your sleep is essential for surfing success. Recognized as the most critical recovery tool, adequate rest is indispensable for optimal physical and mental performance. Having wrestled with sleep issues myself, I aim to share the strategies that have profoundly impacted my life. The series will kick off with the most impactful hacks for when you just can’t fall sleep, before moving on to discuss long-term adjustments in the next newsletter.

Heat: Utilizing heat is one of the most effective strategies I've found. A sauna session can significantly relax you, akin to the sensation after consuming a few drinks. However, access to a sauna might not always be feasible, especially late at night. As an alternative, a long, hot shower can be equally beneficial. I maximize the heat to a bearable level and sit at the bottom of the shower, allowing the warmth to fully relax my body.

The physiological basis for this method lies in the necessity of a body temperature drop to initiate sleep. By heating up and then cooling down, your body becomes naturally drowsy. Alongside heat therapy, focusing on deep breathing during the shower also helps to physically reset my body.

Journaling: Another technique that aids in sleep optimization is journaling. It effectively empties the mind of restless thoughts. I type on the back of my phone to avoid bright screens, engaging in a mental purge. Journal everything and anything and until you start to physically start to feel drowsy and tired. This approach has been particularly effective for me especially if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep.

Cycling Heat and Journaling Usually one cycle of hot shower and journaling is going to make me drowsy enough to fall asleep, but there's definitely nights where I'm still not able to fall asleep. What I'll actually do is do another round of hot shower and journaling to fully turn my mind and body off on those nights where I really can’t sleep.

Food This one is is tricky and may not work for you because generally digestion generally impairs sleep, especially protein which definitely keeps me awake, but I’ve found that eating a decent portion of carbs makes me really drowsy and I will sometimes do this if I’m really struggling to fall asleep.

Supplements: For those nights when sleep is crucial, I sometimes turn to supplements like melatonin, magnesium, magnolia bark, chamomile tea, and L-theanine. Melatonin taken over the long term can actually harm your sleep so I only use that one for emergencies. In general, I find these supplements offer only marginal benefits compared to the combination of sauna (or hot shower), journaling, and deep breathing.

Unconscious mind: Finally, allowing my unconscious mind to lead has been instrumental in falling asleep. I avoid engaging with stimulating topics and instead let my thoughts drift to random, trivial matters. Concentrating on the visuals behind my closed eyes and letting my mind wander freely assists in my transition to sleep. When I start feeling a floating disassociated feeling I usually know that if I lean into it I’ll be falling asleep soon.

These personalized strategies have markedly improved my sleep, significantly benefiting my surfing and overall health. Each individual's experience may differ, but these methods have been invaluable for me.

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