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Sleepy Time - How to Get the Most Out of Your Zzz's

Written by ALP Cycles Coach Jennifer Sharp.

We’ve become obsessed with data and athletic performance: watts/kilo, time spent in specific zones, nutrition, strength training and conditioning - yet very little emphasis is placed on the importance of sleep as a means to optimize athletic performance. You work hard at hitting your numbers during interval workouts, gaining strength at the gym, logging your every move - but are you sabotaging your efforts by not getting enough sleep? 

The benefits of sleep are many: recovery, repair and rebuild of muscles, neurofunciton, injury avoidance, increased response time, etc. Reducing the amount of time you spend sleeping can have a big (and negative) impact on your training. Want to increase the quality and amount of sleep you’re getting each night? Try the following methods:

1. Sleep rituals. Brushing your teeth, putting on your pajama’s, making a cup of herbal tea before bed, etc. all are ways to unwind from the day so start by setting your own ritual around going to bed. 

2. Turn off electronics. Roughly 1-2 hours prior to getting into bed, shut off your phone, tablet, computer or other electronic devices. Our thoughts can keep us up late into the night and illuminating your face with an electronic screen can mess with your melatonin.

3. Regular sleep time. Make an effort to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day.

4. Sleep in a cave. Or darken your room. Make sure it’s cool too (as in temperature). Get rid of any lights (digital alarm clocks, night lights, etc) and use black out shades if possible. The darker and cooler the cave, the better. 

5. Avoid caffeine, especially after noon. 

6. Avoid hyper-hydration. Drink too much right before bed and you may find yourself waking up frequently to urinate. 

7. Read before bed, but nothing too stimulating. And yes, I’m talking old school hard/soft cover books (remember no electronic screens!). 

Improve your length of sleep and you’ll see improvements in performance. A study conducted in 2008 on a group of healthy student swimmers extended their sleep to 10 hours per day for six to seven weeks concluded that "athletes across all sports can greatly benefit from extra sleep and gain the additional competitive edge to perform at their highest level.” (For details on the study, click here.)

Want to read more about the benefits of sleep and how to fall back to sleep before competition? Check out the following links:

http://ylmsportscience.blogspot.com/2015/05/recovery-how-does-sleep-loss-influence.html?q=sleep

http://ylmsportscience.blogspot.com/2016/07/recovery-recommendations-for-improving.html?q=sleep

http://ylmsportscience.blogspot.com/2014/09/many-athletes-report-worse-sleep-in.html?q=sleep

Here’s to a good nights rest and quality training!

PS - Join us in Tucson this January 23-29, 2017 for our annual training camp! More details can be found here. 

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How to Sleep Well After Hard Training

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How to Sleep Well After Hard Training

A lot of us use exercise to improve our sleep. However, for many of us, after a hard training ride, it can be tough to get a good night sleep.

Here are some tips to help ensure a better night sleep after a hard bike ride.

 

- Timing- Aim to do your workout earlier in the day. This is because when you finish a workout, the body takes a long time to calm down. Endorphins and other chemicals have been released to make you more alert and energetic. Your body is also slow to fully cool down and calm down after exercise, and until this happens, you will be fighting an uphill battle when trying to relax and sleep. In fact, exercise can cause your core temperature to be increased for four or five hours after working out.

 

- Caffeine- As cyclists, we all like coffee and caffeine. In fact caffeine can be a performance enhancer and help us to ride harder, longer. However, caffeine late in the day can be a sleep inhibitor. Caffeine can stay in your system for as long as 8 hrs, so aim to have your caffeine intake finished by 2pm. This includes recovery drinks. Many recovery drinks add caffeine or ingredients that contain caffeine.

 

- Electronic Devices- The blue light of electronic devices (TV’s, computers, phones, ipads, etc) prevent the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with nighttime. Instead of watching TV or looking at a computer before bed, read a book or magazine to relax.

 

- Aches and Pains- Your body may be sore after a hard workout and your legs may ache. Wearing compression socks, foam rolling, stretching, etc, after a workout is recommended. However, you may still go to bed with aching legs. In this case, I recommend taking IB Profen. There are many theories on IB Profen, both good and bad, but my thought is if you aren’t sleeping due to aching legs, then you are not recovering. So it’s better to get rid of the aches and pains so you can sleep and recover.

 

-Hydration- Hydration play a huge role in performance and recovery. Drinking enough water throughout the day, especially around exercise, can help regulate the sleep cycle. Dehydration can also lead to melatonin deficiency, which disturbs the sleep cycle.

 

If all else fails, try taking a melatonin 30min before bed time. I also like Valerian root and tart cherry juice (tip from Stacy Sims).

 

Sleep well!

 

 

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