Sleep for Cyclists – Yes, what about it you say? You love to sleep – you sleep for hours – most of your family and friends think you sleep too much!
So how much sleep do I actually need you might ask? The sleep tracker on my iPhone tells me I get lots of sleep! But what it doesn’t track is the quality of that sleep!
Why do we sleep?
After forty years of debate it is still not clear why we actually sleep. What IS clear is that sleep is associated with energy conservation, the body’s immune function, brain metabolism, neural maintenance, memory consolidation, learning, body recovery, and re-building.
What is a good sleep?
Research tells us that we need to fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down, sleep through the night with minimal brief awakenings and for 5-7 days each week we should feel refreshed within one hour of waking.
Not getting enough sleep? So what?
So not getting enough sleep or enough good quality sleep? What you will see is a measurable decline in cognitive ability – in particular decision making ability and memory. You will become moody, angry and even depressed. There will be a notable decline in performance particularly a decrease in your ability to sustain efforts, and to achieve maximal efforts. Overall there will be measurable decrease in power output; you will experience slower recovery, and there is an increased risk of getting sick with an increase in our fatigue level.
Sleeping tablets are NOT the answer! We need to improve the quality of our sleep and NOT knock the body out with drugs.
Improving our sleep.
If you’re not getting enough sleep at night then the old ‘nana nap’ or re-boot during the day does help. There are some simple rules to follow though – keep the ‘nap’ to less than 30 minutes taking it late morning or midday and avoiding late afternoon. Ensure you are following a proper recovery after each training session – mentally, physically and nutritionally. You need to minimise the caffeine and alcohol before bedtime and establish a daily routine to improve your sleep.
Establish a Sleep Routine
DITCH THE PHONE/COMPUTER AN HOUR BEFORE BEDTIME. These screens excite the brain too much! Darken the room shutting out all bright white light. A room temperature of 19-21 is ideal and going to bed the same time night is all about routine! Get rid of the bright clock, radio, TV, computer, and phone. Learn muscle and mental relaxation – as simple as ‘square breathing’ – count to 4 slowly as you breathe in, hold for 4, breathe out for 4 and hold for 4. Be conscious of the food and drink consumed before bed. And if waking during the night is a problem, try relaxation, be careful not to turn on lights but keep the room darkened and DON’T CHECK THE PHONE!