The importance of sleep for cyclists in training can’t be overstated. If you are familiar with the Principles of Training you will already know that fitness comes from overcompensation, the body rebuilds itself stronger after a training stress. That rebuilding process happens whilst we are resting or asleep – so the quality of our sleep has a direct impact on the potential fitness gains from training.
Follow these simple tips to improve your recovery and increase cycling fitness gains.
Sleep for Cyclists: Tip 1 – Be Consistent
The number one tip for getting a good nights sleep is consistency. Going to bed at the same time helps us maintain a normal circadian rhythm. Disturbing this rhythm impacts our sleep and our appetite – two crucial elements that support quality and efficacy of training. Read more about the benefits of sleep consistency in this great interview of Dr Shona Halson, Senior Physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) on Cycling Tips.
Sleep for Cyclists: Tip 2 – Nutrition
Just as fuelling before and during your ride helps you improve the efficacy of a workout, so eating a small, low GI, high protein snack before bedtime can aid muscle repair and help fuel a good sleep. A snack of yoghurt and nuts for example would make sense if you’re also using the time to set out your breakfast ready for assembly in the morning…
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Sleep for Cyclists: Tip 3 – What Gets Measured Matters
Management guru Peter Drucker’s oft quoted mantra “What gets measured gets managed” can help you improve your sleep. Whether it’s keeping a simple diary of sleep quality in Training Peaks or using a Sleep App, having the stats may make you focus on improving sleep quality and quantity.
Sleep for Cyclists: Tip 4 – Read Fiction
Reading non-fiction books in bed puts the mind in a future planning state, for example if you were reading book like the Cyclist’s Training Bible then you are likely to be reflecting on your current fitness and projecting future training sessions. That’s not great for falling asleep.
In contrast fiction encourages fantasy. Just think about how your quality of sleep relates to your dreams, a night full of weird dreams solving your current problems vs a few memories of a fantastical dream. For more on why Fiction is good for you check out these tips on sleep hacking from Tim Ferris.
Sleep for Cyclists: Tip 5 – Digital Sunset
Electric devices like smartphones and laptops emit blue light which suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. So get into the habit of having a digital sunset mid evening and leave your phone/tablet/laptop on charge in a room you don’t sleep in! This works well if you do like to read non-fiction – turn the TV off, get your non-fiction fix and then go to bed with a fiction book!
Can’t live without checking tweets before bedtime? Then read from Team Sky’s sleep coach about why a digital sunset is a great idea.
Have you experimented to improve your sleep? Share your results below!
Photo Credits: OPQS and Samuel Britton