Commonweath Games - Dormeo Summer of Sport
The Commonwealth Games is back! Between July 28th and August 8th, the best athletes from the commonwealth come together and compete against each other for the title of champion.
Getting sleep is as important to an athlete as all the hours every day of training is. Both increased quantity and quality of sleep helps athletes improve performance in many areas related to the extreme exertion in the sport.
Nearly all of us aren’t elite-level athletes and, for some, “extreme exertion” is running after a bus just missed. Most of us will never even got close to being even called an athlete.
And that's fine. We can live with that.
But, just like elite athletes, WE ALL need a good amount of sleep.
Top athletes (and sportspeople) have a very scientific approach to sleep, and we have taken the most important elements they use to help you get a better night's sleep.
Try Different Routines
It’s important to experiment and find the routine that works best for you. Before bed, try having a hot bath or a cold bath, a cold shower or a hot shower. See which one works best for you and then keep that as part of your routine.
Your routine might be affected by the seasons or other factors, so don’t worry about being flexible! It’s important to remember everybody is different and what someone else’s regime is might not work for you.
Don't Worry About Getting Loads of Sleep
Don’t worry about getting over 10 hours of sleep. According to Charles Samuels, a sleep scientist with the Canadian Olympic team, getting enough sleep seems to be more important that trying to get as many of sleep under your belt as you can. What’s hard is trying to define what ‘enough’ is.
When asked “How many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested?” a group consisting of members of the general public averaged out at 8.3 hours a night, but it is totally subjective and individual.
Manage Your Body's Temperature
With such an intense training schedule, some training takes place later on in the evenings. It naturally has an impact on body temperature, taking some time for that to return to back to normal. Even if you are not an elite level athlete, getting your body to the right temperature is vital for a good night of sleep.
Apps not Devices
The dangers of blue light and how it can be damaging to sleep are well-known. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use an app on a device to help you sleep. There are many apps that are designed to help mental health, which includes sleep health. Even an audiobook being played from your phone would work, you just need to not be looking at the screen.
Sugar in Your Diet
Diet is just as important as training is for elite athletes. It’s the fuel that helps them push harder and further. For us mere mortals, diet is important for good sleep health just as it is for athletes.
The main culprit in diets that causes sleep problems is refined sugars. Refined sugars provide little to no nutritional value, compared to natural sugars found in whole fruit and vegetables. Avoiding foods such as cookies, cakes, drinks with a high sugar content (including “sports drinks”) and things like yoghurt can be a great way to improve your sleep.
Stress? What Stress?
Stress in universal. There is no escaping it.
With athletes, the stressful situations they participate in are very apparent. Stressful factors of daily life can sometimes get too much and we find things like sleep difficult to do.
Finding a strategy that manages these pressures is vitally important to overall health, not just mental and sleep health.
Try and release the pressure by spending time with family or friends, helping you to relax your focus and letting your mind peacefully settle. Also, if you are in bed and struggling to sleep, don’t stress about it or you will be awake for longer.
The Science Bit
A Stanford study of men’s basketball players who extended their sleep to 10 hours a night found several positive outcomes. The players ran faster in both half-court and full-court sprints. Their shooting improved by at least 9% for both free throws and three-point shots. The athletes also reported improved physical and mental well-being.
Male and female swimmers who extended their sleep to 10 hours also saw many performance improvements. Reaction times off diving blocks were faster, turn times were improved, and kick strokes increased.
The times swimming a 15-metre sprint also improved. Additionally, these athletes experienced improved mood and decreased daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
For more information about sleep and exercise, read our post “How sleep can help sport & fitness performance” here.