Sleep deprivation can be very damaging when it comes to athletic recovery…
Unfortunately though, time-pressed riders often neglect sleep in order to squeeze more time out of their day, underestimating how much that this can have a negative effect on their performance.
SLEEP DEPRIVATION EFFECTS
There are many effects that sleep-deprivation can have on a cyclist’s recovery.
Let’s look at three…
1. SLOWER GLYCOGEN RESYNTHESIS
The first of these is inhibited glycogen resynthesis, which essentially means that energy stores are not being restocked quickly between workouts. This results in the athlete needing more time to recover before their next workout and therefore fewer training sessions can be performed properly in a given time frame.
2. ILLNESS SUSCEPTIBILITY
A second issue with sleep deprivation is that of increased sensitivity to illness. This is because the immune system cannot function at an optimal level when the body is deprived of sleep and still recovering from the stress of a tough workout schedule. Getting ill can sometimes mean multiple days and even weeks off the bike, leading to loss of fitness and consistency.
3. POOR PROTEIN SYNTHESIS
Another inhibition that the athlete can face without adequate sleep is poor protein synthesis. As protein is needed to repair the muscle damage caused by training, the athlete’s fitness development can be slowed considerably, again leading to breaks in consistency and a lowered potential for peak condition.
SOLUTIONS TO POOR SLEEP
So, how can we ensure that we are:
A) getting enough sleep and…
B) getting the best quality sleep possible?
Well, there are a number of tips and guidelines that you can abide by that will help.
The first of these is to, where possible, schedule workouts earlier in the day, rather than leaving them to the evening.
Think of performing workouts a little bit like drinking coffee, in that the later in the day they are done, the more difficult it can be to get to sleep when it’s time for bed.
If exercising later in the day is your only option, then try to perform the workout as early as possible to avoid sleep onset latency.
The second way you may be able to improve sleep and minimise sleep deprivation is to set a clear routine and stick to it, and this goes for both when you go to bed and when you wake up. Getting back on track with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your sleep, as well as making sure that the day ahead is maximised time-wise.
ASSOCIATING BED WITH SLEEP
Another related technique is to create a relaxing bedtime routine and one which actually associates your bed with sleep.
Many people actually use their bed as somewhere to hang out after work and after workouts because it’s comfortable, which can sometimes have the effect of desensitising you to the fact that the bed should be associated with sleep.
Try instead to unwind in places other than your bedroom until it is time to sleep.
In addition, many people use electronic gadgets like smartphones, tablets and laptops in bed before they then try to go to sleep. It’s well-publicised that the light from electronic devices can seriously inhibit the production of melatonin, a chemical released by the body which helps to induce sleep. By imposing a no electronics before bed rule, athletes can dramatically improve both the time it takes them to get to sleep and the quality of the sleep they get.
Finally, creating a bedroom which is conducive to sleep is very important, especially to the training cyclist.
You can do this by making sure you have a quiet environment when it’s time to sleep, or by using a white noise technique to neutralise external sounds if that is your personal preference.
Keeping your room cool and dark will also help the body to get off to sleep rapidly and stay asleep once sleep has been induced.
SHOULD YOU NAP?
Finally, one aspect of sleep that is hotly debated and is dependent on personal preference is daytime napping.
Whether you nap or not will depend on a few things, from time available to whether it helps or hinders you getting to sleep at night.
If you’re an athlete that can nap in the daytime and finds no negative effect on evening sleep, then it’s encouraged, as it can certainly help to boost recovery. If not however, simply concentrate on optimising your evening sleep using some of the techniques above.