We see it everywhere, it’s not a secret that 8 hours sleep is good for you. But by the time you finished work, cooked dinner, caught up with some friends, finished a ride, put the kids to bed, and whatever other mundane chores and tasks you have, getting a good sleep can be harder than you expect. If you’re struggling to get a good sleep hopefully we can help with this article.
Naturally, when you’re busy with work and life outside of that it seems a great solution to go to bed a bit later, and wake up a bit earlier. More hours in the day has to mean more productivity, right? Well it might not be as straight forward as that.
The double espresso and energy drink combination you had at 4pm powers you through to the late evening. But by the time you finally get to bed it takes what seems like an eternity for your thoughts to slow down and you toss and turn to try and settle your restless body. And your eyes shut for what feels like a moment before the alarm buzzes and you go hunting for the biggest breakfast you can find.
Does Sleep Affect Physical Performance?
Sleep improves alertness, attention span, mental agility and a whole host of other things. Science has also shown that good amounts of sleep also improve energy levels and speed. There’s a huge positive correlation between sleep and physical performance, so getting 8-10 hours a night can offer a real benefit.
When you’re asleep your body releases human growth hormone for repair and recovery, as well as banking memories and the things you’ve learned through the day. As well as helps your body take care of important processes such as temperature regulation, digestion and heart function.
Lack of sleep can lead to over training syndrome which we spoke about in another blog. It can also increase blood pressure, anxiety and depression. All of these things will have a knock on effect on performance both in and out of training.
Sleep and Fat Loss
Often a lot of people take up cycling to get healthier and lose some weight, and good sleep can have a big impact on this. There are a lot more things that contribute to losing fat than just calories in vs calories out.
Timing of meals, composition of meals and sleep can all impact your weight loss. Good sleep can help to keep your body firing on all cylinders and encourage your metabolism. If the body doesn’t get enough sleep it can store extra fat to try and keep the energy levels high.
The Mental Game
When you’re building up to a big event or training session the nerves can kick in and make sleep difficult. The way you deal with the the sleepless night is incredibly important. If you’re set on the fact that without good sleep you won’t be able to perform, then it’s likely to be true.
Good races and training sessions are made up of all the hard work you’ve put in up until that point. So some strong resolve and a determination to perform well can often over turn a single bad night of sleep.
If you can get a good sleep on the following evening, it will help you recover from the sleep you missed the day before. It’s important not to let one or two bad sleeps bother you or cause you to stress. The bigger picture is much more important here. Good sleep over a week is the key, meaning one or two nights can be missed.
Research is also available to suggest that genetics play a part in how much sleep you need in order to function at your optimum level. So if you’re feeling great off 7 hours, don’t get hung up on that extra hour and let it stress you out.
Adapting Training to Match Sleep
If you know you’re going to get a night or two of reduced sleep due to work deadlines, social life or travel, then it’s best to adapt your training to allow for this. It only becomes an issue if you’re losing sleep for an extended period of time. So reducing your volume or intensity while you miss a couple of nights full sleep will help your body deal with a load.
Adapting the training plan to have your best session around good sleep will really help your overall performance. And as long as you’re hitting the key sessions, you’ll still be making progress. Sometimes an afternoon nap or an extra hour in bed can be more beneficial to the bigger picture than getting up tired to “crush” your training – or let it crush you!
Don’t get tied up in every single session, if your body and mind are asking for rest, make sure you let yourself take it.
Napping in the day can really help you feel more alert. It doesn’t have to be long, 20-40 minutes is the optimum time to get you back and fresh again. But don’t sleep too long, it can add to the drowsiness.
Sleep runs in 90 minute cycles – and naturally our body has both an evening and an afternoon lull. This means you could combine evening and afternoon sleep to keep yourself as fresh as possible.
How To Improve Your Sleep:
- Make sure the room is dark.
- Keep the temperature cool as much as you can.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress & regularly change bedding.
- Avoid screen time just before you go to bed.
- Try and avoid eating right before you sleep.
- Develop a routine bed time each night.
- Avoid Caffeine after 3pm. (including chocolate)
- Try not to eat high fat meals late in the evening
Hopefully you find something in the article helpful to get yourself into a good sleep routine and see the benefits!