Kerri Walsh Jennings is a three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball who’s in the midst of training for the 2016 games in Rio. She’s also a mother of three. Finding time to get in some quality shut-eye with young kids and a demanding training schedule can be difficult, but Jennings has made sleep a priority for years.
“I was an insomniac in high school,” she says. “I had major sleep issues that led to mono. It wasn’t until I had been playing beach volleyball for five years that I realized how running on empty was really affecting my performance.”
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Even though most of us know how much better we feel after a great night’s sleep, we still find it hard to say no to that urge to stay out late with friends or watch just one more episode of our favorite TV show. Jennings shares her tricks to always making time for beauty sleep and the things she does on the nights she lies awake feeling restless.
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
My husband and I try to turn off all of our devices at 9 p.m. and then have lights out at 9:30 p.m. because we tend to get up early—around 5:15 every morning. It sounds a little militant when I say it out loud, but it all comes from living and learning. Now that I have kids and I’m in the middle of training, I do a lot more planning—everything from meals to sleep—which has allowed me and my family to be happy, healthy, and still kicking butt.
2. Find a pre-sleep routine that relaxes you.
I take a hot shower, get in my comfy pajamas, and make some hot tea or hot water with lemon. It’s not always easy to slow down, but I’ve seen the benefits of it, so I try and do it every night.
3. Don’t stress about nights when you don’t get enough sleep.
It’s going to happen—it could be one of my kids wakes up in the middle of the night or my mind keeps racing—but I try and not make it a bigger problem than it is. On days when I’m low on sleep, I try to fit in a 20-minute cat nap (five minutes of meditation works well too) that gets me grounded and helps me chill out.
4. Fit in a workout.
If I get in a good workout and I’m physical throughout the day, I’m going to sleep much better. I know some people have trouble winding down if they work out later. I think that’s because people then tend to eat later too, and that whole process is going to keep you up.
5. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary.
Having a great mattress is very important to me. I’ve started to realize the difference between quantity and quality of sleep. If I get six hours of great sleep, I can start the day off right. (Editor’s Note: Jennings is a spokesperson for Tempur-Pedic and its “You’re Important” campaign.)
6. Focus on how good it feels to be well rested.
My mood and patience are much higher when I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep. I’m better able to deal with my kids when they act up or the stress of my job if I’ve gotten plenty of shut-eye. Thinking about how good I feel when I’m well rested makes it a whole lot easier to stick to my sleep schedule and not worry about what I might be missing out on.