We have all been told to get our 8 hours of sleep. For athletes this is especially true! Studies show that sleep deprivation can decrease exercise performance, reaction times, cognitive function, immunity and increase inflammation and pain perception. We also see that athletes tend to sleep less before a big event. Athletes who sleep longer (10 h/night) and add naps during the day if they didn’t get a good night sleep experience improved exercise performance, alertness and decreased day time sleepiness.

So how can you get more sleep, especially before those big races?? Create a sleep routine! Do the same thing the hour before bed EVERY NIGHT. Maybe you have a cup of calming herbal tea, have a bath, read a book and do some deep breathing before bed. Other helpful aids would be to have a quiet sound machine or fan in your room, a good quality pillow and placing lavender essential oils in a diffuser or misting lavender spray in your room before bed. When you hit the road for a race, TAKE these items with you to keep your routine consistent. Bring your pillow, oils, book, tea and sound machine! Your body will be cued to go to sleep even when you are away and in times of increased pressure. That little bit of extra packing could help improve your sleep so you can do your best on the hill.

Of course I realize asking a teenager to bring a sound machine, diffuser/ mister etc. may be wishful thinking but even just incorporating one or two of these suggestions in the creation of a regular routine can help you sleep better and most importantly put you in the position to perform better.

Halson, Shona L. Sleep in elite Athletes and Nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine. 2014: 44suppl 1) 13-23

Jarraya, Mohamed & Jarraya, Sana & Chtourou, Hamdi & Souissi, Nizar. (2012). The effect of partial sleep deprivation on the reaction time and the attentional capacities of the handball goalkeeper. Biological Rhythm Research – BIOL RHYTHM RES. 44. . 10.1080/09291016.2012.721589.

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