Learn the techniques pro athletes use to get a good night’s rest
So, how’s your sleep? Think you’re pretty good at getting a good night’s rest? Let’s be honest, even if you are an expert at counting sheep, there’s always room for improvement.
Sleep has a profound effect on everyone and is a part of the day that Human Powered Health™ athletes, in particular, aim to prioritize. This is because a well-rested athlete is an athlete ready to perform to the best of their ability.
Many of the athletes achieve a consistent sleep routine through methods that work for them and techniques that can be repeated. The importance of this consistency for daily performance and recovery cannot be easily discounted.
“Sleep is how our bodies recover, it’s how our brains recover and it’s essential for an athlete and everyone else,” Dr Kelby Bethards from Fort Collins, Colorado explain. “You’re not going to perform as well in life, in sport or even just using your brain if you’re fatigued through lack of shut-eye.”
Due to external factors, the busyness of everyday life and the dreaded blue light boogeyman, it is now very easy for our sleep to be continuously interrupted to the point of yo-yo-ing on the pillow.
“We most likely have an epidemic of sleep disorders going on right now,” warns team doctor Mark Greve, MD. “So many of the behaviors and what we’re doing around the time of sleep has really led to a tremendous amount of sleep disruptions, and it has impacts on your relationships, your ability to perform at school as well as to perform as athletes.”
This shows that the importance of sleep extends well beyond physical activity but touches greatly on holistic health – considering the multi-dimensional aspects of physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual health.
To stay on top of this symbiotic relationship between rest and performance, some of our athletes employ some techniques of their own. Self-described “Queen of Naps” Marit Raaijmakers, has self-learned a technique that means she can power down and recharge almost anywhere.
“Sometimes I fall asleep in a car or on the plane, and my teammates are just coming up to me, like, Marit, we need to go, come on, and I’m like, oh, right,” she jovially recounts.
This is not an ability that the Dutch rider just one day tapped into, but a mindfulness-style technique that was taught to her by her military serving father.
“He taught me a way to visualize yourself in a peaceful place where you feel safe,” Raaijmakers explains. “For me, that’s at the waterside. I hear the water and I hear the waves crashing and I feel the wind and then I start to shut off my body.
Raaijmakers talks about sleep as an exercise, something to train and to include in a program. It’s as simple as, “when you recover fast and very well, you can train more.”
Making sleep rules that work for you is also a way of combating those external factors mentioned by Dr Greve.
“The best way to help myself to sleep at night is to have a sleep routine,” says Chad Haga. “I just do the same thing every night where I set up my stuff for the next day, brush my teeth, read a little bit and then try to put my phone down earlier.”
When the riders are in an unfamiliar environment, the importance of such sleep techniques doubles, especially after a whole day of caffeine, gels and energy products. Perhaps ironically, Robin Carpenter finds his travel sleep answers in his phone.
“On the road, I have an app on my phone that makes white noise that helps with a hotel room if it’s too quiet or even too loud,” says Carpenter. “I always travel with earplugs and an eye mask just in case, because you never know what the hotel is going to be like where you’re at, the curtains might be terrible, or you might be right on a busy street and you just don’t want to be stressing about being kept awake.”
The Tour of Britain stage winner does this abroad because he also turns to tech at home.
“I always run a fan, so if you do that, you’re going to notice when you’re somewhere else and you don’t have that white noise going that it’s actually really difficult to fall asleep.”
On the other hand, breakaway artist Stephen Bassett uses a bit of shock factor to get his sleep kick.
“For good sleep, I actually do a cold shower for two, three minutes right before bed,” said Bassett. “It kind of shuts your body down and it seems to work really well for me.”
Finally, away from physical techniques, sleep patterns can be altered and improved through supplementation, such as the bundles our partners at Thorne provide. Magnesium Bisglycinate has had particularly good effects where a good and good sleep routine comes up short.
Magnesium promotes health of the heart, blood vessels, brain, bones, muscles, and lungs. It’s also an essential mineral for the electrical activity of the heart and it helps to relax smooth and skeletal muscle.
Glycine, found in Bisglycinate, is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and stress reduction in the body. All these features combined make Magnesium Bisglycinate a good choice for pre-bedtime supplementation to support restful sleep.
Sleep is an entirely personal habit, but next time you’re tossing and turning in bed, how about trying out Marit’s power-down, Stephen’s cold shower or ordering some Magnesium Bisglycinate, it may just crack the code.
— Oskar Scarsbrook to humanpoweredhealth.com