Early morning training sessions that interrupt sleep quality and duration from the previous nights activity is a very easy way that we help athletes get appropriate amounts of sleep.
For example, instead of waking our players up at 630am-7am the morning after an evening match (which in itself is also associated with poor sleep quality and duration for numerous factors including increased alcohol consumption after the event and increased caffeine consumption prior to and during the event) to take them down to the ocean baths/pool for a recovery session; how about we just let them sleep in and let them get a decent 8hrs of sleep?
Hands up if you have been guilty of doing that? I know I have...
The other really interesting finding from Shona and her colleagues research was that sleep duration was shorter in athletes from individual sports than in athletes from team sports.
Think of the elite swimmer, rower, runner, cyclist. All of these athletes historically get up at the crack of dawn multiple times per week to get up and train, thus cutting into their sleep duration. There are certainly sporting cultural and behavioural reasons behind these early morning training sessions (eg. rowers – quiet still water; cyclists – quite roads with less traffic; swimmers – because we always get up early and that’s just how it is) that we may not be able to change too easily; but this is something we need to be conscious of when working with individual athletes and try to find ways to facilitate improve sleep quality and duration where we can.
So in wrapping up my blog – I hope you have enjoyed it by the way - here are my 2 cents regarding sleep:
- Sleep is one of the best performance enhancing “drugs” getting around. And its completely legal and free. So find ways to facilitate the bare minimum of at least 7hrs sleep per night in your elite athletes. Either encourage heading off to bed early if there has to be early morning training, or where possible, delay the morning training sessions to as late as possible in the morning.
- Don’t sacrifice sleep the morning after a game for an early morning “recovery session” at the pool. The restorative power that sleep gives the players is far better than the “active recovery” session you have designed for them in the pool that cuts their sleep short.
- Lastly, here are 4 simple tips from Simpson et al (2016) to improve night time sleep hygiene to encourage a good nights sleep:
1) Sleep in cool (but not cold), dark room.
2) Avoid using electronics or personal devices in bedroom.
3) Limit technology use 1 hour before bed.
4) Reduce caffeine after lunch, and minimise alcohol at night.