Dreaming of Gold: Sleep Habits of Olympic Athletes

In a few short weeks, the 2012 Summer Olympics will begin. For two weeks, the world will be watching the games that bring together people from all walks of life. These tests of strength, endurance and perseverance wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding determination of the athletes who are chosen for the Olympics. They’ve survived rigorous training and competitions to get where they are and one of the most underrated areas of their training is their sleeping habits. An athlete’s performance is only as good as the sleep they’ve had the night before.According to WebMD, the sleep techniques that Olympic athletes use can be practiced by all sleepers for the best night of rest.

“We know that sleep loss is going to create significant detriments in performance,” says Mark Rosekind, PhD, president of Alertness Solutions and a former NASA scientist. “There are lab studies that show that if you’re an eight-hour sleeper and you get six hours of sleep, that two-hour difference can impact your performance so that it equates to how you would perform if you had a 0.05 blood-alcohol level.”

Sleep Environment

Before studying the sleeping habits of athletes, the environment they’re going to bed in is observed first. This includes factors like light, temperature and noise levels.

Light Conditions

To improve the light conditions, blackout curtains were used to prevent light from entering their rooms, but also keep the environment safe if the athlete needed to get up in the middle of the night.

Temperature

As far as temperature goes, according to the National Sleep Foundation, a cool room is always better than a warm room. There should be a control system in place, like a thermostat, and always keep extra blankets nearby in case you need to regulate your temperature throughout the night.

Noise Control

Noise is another factor that can have an impact on sleep. To block the interference of distracting noises at night, athletes use white noise such as fans or sound machines to allow them to fall asleep easier.

Beds

Some of the Olympic training facilities only had twin beds, which, for athletes like Michael Phelps with wingspans longer than the bed itself, could be problematic. The best size bed for the athletes was found to be full-size beds. Mattress type was a matter of preference, but extra hypoallergenic pillows and cotton sheets and blankets were also helpful to the comfort level.

Waking Up

Perhaps the most important part of the sleep process for an Olympic athlete is waking up. A reliable alarm clock (sometimes more than one) was used during training.

So while you may not be heading to the London games this summer, you can still sleep like an Olympian and perform like one in your everyday life!

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