Sleep Better, Ride Better
Give yourself enough Z’s to rejuvenate and take your horse showing to the next level.
By Barbra Schulte in The American Quarter Horse Journal | January 21, 2014
Maybe you’ve decided that 2014 is your year. You plan to take showing more seriously than ever before, dedicating your spare time and finances to this goal. If this is the case, don’t let any disadvantage stand in your way, like lack of sleep!
Besides eating and breathing, sleep is the most important source of recovery in our lives. It’s a critical time that the human body needs for rejuvenation.
Even small amounts of sleep debt have a significant impact on physical strength, energy, mental concentration, memory, reasoning and the ability to perform automatic skills, even riding. Reaction time and the ability to make spontaneous decisions also decline.
If showing is important, then prepare to commit as much time to yourself as you do to your showing companion – your horse.
Don’t be like Jim and learn the hard way. Master the slumber now so that you are prepped to enter the show arena, alert and ready.
Jim loves to show and travel with his two favorite horses and his three-horse trailer with sleeping quarters.
Unfortunately, Jim is also a night owl and a worrier. At home, he never gets to bed before 1 a.m. He struggles to wake up by 7:30 or 8 a.m. and then feels guilty because he’s going to be late. He spends his first few hours of the day feeling fatigued, worried and rushed.
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Jim fantasized about getting away from it all and planned to be fiercely competitive in the show arena. He had no idea his poor sleep patterns would impede on his success.
Jim’s tendency to worry showed up when he turned off the lights in his living quarters at midnight. He felt worked up about the next day. He was concerned if his horse was ready, if he had practiced enough and who the other competitors would be. He never fell asleep before 2 a.m. He had to get up at 6 a.m. to feed and get ready for his class. When he was supposed to be at his best between 8 and 10 a.m., he was tired and foggy.
Jim thought a stout cup of coffee and a candy bar would jump-start his mind and body to get him in the show-ring groove. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Here are some tips to maximize sleep and break into a routine:
Beware of Some of the Causes of Lack of Sleep
- Inconsistent times for going to bed and waking up.
- Alcohol intake.
- A disruptive sleep environment.
- Caffeine intake late in the day – coffee, chocolate, hot cocoa, black tea and various soft drinks.
- Foods that contain L-Tyramine (which causes stimulants to be released in the brain) – bacon, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, ham, potatoes, sauerkraut, sugar, sausage, spinach and tomatoes.
- Anxious thoughts, especially about things out of your control – judges, weather, fellow competitors, horse preparation, etc.
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Develop Healthy Sleep Patterns
- Everyone needs seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
- Go to bed between 9:30 and 10 p.m. to maximize the production of your natural growth hormone.
- Develop sleep rituals and follow them.
- Decide what relaxes you, like a hot, soaking bath or reading nonfiction, and do it every night.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time.
- Exercise daily, but not too close to bedtime.
- Eliminate long naps during the day (10-15 minutes are best).
- Get a half hour of sunlight within 30 minutes of waking.
- Don’t look at your clock if you awaken during the night.
- Keep your bedroom cool, well-ventilated and dark.
- Employ specific anxiety-relieving strategies when you are kept awake by nervous thoughts.
- Resist the temptation to become angry, frustrated or upset when you can’t sleep. Negative emotions increase arousal and decrease the likelihood of sleep. Simply relax and enjoy the quiet time.
- Make your bedroom or trailer living quarters a sanctuary of sleep.
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