Triathletes tend to be obsessed with recovery. We have our shakes or recovery bars, we sit in bathtubs full of ice, endure painful massages to work out all of the kinks, head to yoga class, eat a nutritious meal and get into a pair of normatec boots any chance we can get. All of these things are great to help aid in our recovery and if you’ve been doing this a while, you’ve likely found the magic formula that works for your body; however many triathletes are missing what could be the most important element in their recovery. It’s this little thing we call sleep.
Over 40% of Americans get less than the recommended 8-9 hours of sleep per night. Because triathletes are often balancing very busy careers with family obligations, training sessions and other life events, it’s likely that they tend to fall into that 40%. Sleep is imperative to recovery. An athlete can do everything else right and never reach his or her potential because the body’s most natural recovery mechanism, sleep, is not being utilized.
Sleep deprivation has been reported to increase cortisol, the stress hormone, and decrease the production of glycogen, the body’s fuel source. What does this mean? Athletes who aren’t getting enough sleep are more likely to feel fatigue, low energy and poor focus. It’s also decreases the body’s ability to recovery from a workout. In short, lack of sleep could be directly impact your goals.
Although we can’t add more hours to our day, we can do a few things that might help us get more and better sleep. Here are just a few tips:
- Determine what time you need to go to bed to get a full night’s sleep and schedule it. We will always feel like we need to cram a few more things into our day but when you make sleep a priority, you’ll create the necessary schedule to get those coveted zzzz’s.
- Turn off your screens about an hour before you want to go to sleep. Not only do the lights from the screens impact our ability to fall asleep, we tend to get sucked into one more episode of netflix when we don’t have a set time to turn off the screen. Try reading a good old-fashioned book instead. Try going old-school with your alarm clock and leave the smartphone in another room.
- Make your room as dark as possible. This will help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Even the blue light from your tv, alarm clock or smart device can interrupt the sleep cycle.
- Find a bedtime routine that helps calm your mind. Breathing exercises, gentle stretching, gratitude journaling and meditation are all options you can try.
A lot of research is written on the best environments for good sleep and tips to calm your mind if you wake up in the middle of the night. Find what works for you and stick with a routine. See if you find your performance increasing thanks to those extra hours of sleep.