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Sleeping Like a Pro: A Look at the Sleep Routines of High-Performing Athletes
Elite athletes train hard and diet to perform at the highest level. It takes passion, commitment and discipline. However, there’s a third crucial element that contributes to their success: sleep. How an athlete sleeps can really boost their performance. Below is a look at how some of the highest-performing athletes approach sleep, plus secrets from the sports world that can help you to sleep so you fire on all cylinders:
Many have marvelled at Serena Williams’s achievements on the court, including the way she progressed to a Wimbledon final just 10 months after having a baby. How has she done it? Besides serious training on the court since she was three years old, eating well and staying positive, the US athlete has attributed her success to the emphasis she places on getting a consistent, restful sleep.
The tennis star has also highlighted the importance of having a good mattress. Her mattress adapts to her body and relieves pressure points so she can sleep peacefully and give her best the next day.
The ex-swimmer Michael Phelps is the world’s most decorated Olympian with a whopping 28 medals to his name. Quality of sleep has mattered immensely to him. In fact, it has to the point that he slept in a chamber which simulated being at an altitude of between 8,500 and 9,000 feet. His ‘higher altitude’ would improve his endurance and blood flow by decreasing the amount of oxygen, in turn making his body work harder to produce the red blood cells that carry oxygen to the muscles.
Out partying all night? Not Tom Brady. The star of the New Patriots American football team and a four-time Super Bowl MVP award winner prioritises sleep. In the past, he has confessed to Parade Magazine that he’s all tucked up in bed by 8.30 pm. Sleep is his priority and he considers his bed the only place where he can get the recovery he needs.
Golfing star Michelle Wie made a name for herself when she became the youngest person to qualify for a USGA amateur championship. She was just 10. Since then, she has enjoyed five career wins and made waves in professional golf. Like other sports stars, sleep is a major priority for her. She once told Golf Digest she’ll sleep for at least 12 hours when she can. Any less than 10 and she doesn’t feel good.
How do you sleep like an elite athlete?
Of course, there are some straightforward things to get a good night’s sleep, such as creating a restful environment, and there are lesser known tricks that can give you that performance-boosting edge. Let’s take a look:
Understand circadian rhythms
Circadian rhythms — this is your body’s internal clock and tells you when it’s time to get up or go to bed. When it’s dark, your eyes send the message to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep and your brain produces melatonin, which makes you feel tired.
This clock runs 24 hours a day and you’ll most notice the effects of your body’s circadian rhythm when you experience disturbances to your sleep pattern. For instance, if you suffer from jet lag or if you stay up late to watch the Super Bowl, the big fight or some other mega sports event that takes place in the early hours. Understanding your body’s circadian rhythm can help you get the sleep you need to perform better.
Identifying your chronotype
You’ve heard the terms ‘night owl’ and ‘early bird’, we’re guessing.
These terms describe loosely types of chronotype. Think of chronotypes as ‘sleep personalities’, our natural inclination to be more active or less active at certain times of the day. Identifying our sleep personalities can stop us acting in ways that work against our natural chronotypes and how we recover from our activities.
It’s then a question of timing our sleep into phases or cycles which suit our chronotypes. This can get complicated and even involve sleeping at times you wouldn’t expect to. You may even wish to ask a sleep specialist to advise you on this.
Investing in a good-quality mattress
This might seem obvious, but it’s important to have a good quality mattress. A good mattress should be comfortable, supportive and can last anywhere between 6 and 10 years. If it becomes uncomfortable and you clearly need a new one, don’t try to eek more out of it on the notion that it should unconditionally offer you 6 to 10 years of use. Other factors such as the general stress the mattress endures — are you letting the kids jump up and down on it, for instance? — and how well you take care of the mattress will affect the time your mattress serves you.
High-performing athletes do more than eat a good diet and train like trojans; they get a solid night’s sleep, focusing on quality and quantity. That includes using bedding that offers enough comfort for them to achieve this. Incorporate a little knowledge of how your own body works when it comes to sleeping and you could get a sleep that helps you to perform at the top of your game, too!