Sleep is vital for a healthy lifestyle, but how is it important for cyclists? One bad night’s sleep won’t hurt you, but prolonged sleep loss will have a bigger impact on your performance than you think. Follow these sleep tips to get a better routine around sleep and give your body an opportunity to perform at its best.
Exercise physiologist and overall health guru, Ben Greenfield states there are two primary reasons for sleep.
The brain cleans up unwanted ‘mess’
The body repairs itself
Get on a regular cycle
Our circadian rhythm governs the human body. So if you can go to bed and wake up at around the same time each night this will work with your body’s natural sleep cycle, rather than fighting against it. This is where the body works with light and darkness and is controlled by a small area in the middle of the brain. Brain wave activity, hormone production, and cell regeneration are just a few of the factors influenced by our circadian rhythm.
Understand what to eat and drink before bed
Obviously, sugar and caffeine are a big no, no. Sugar leads to a night of restless sleep and keeping your blood sugar levels steady is important any time of the day. Avoid caffeine up to 5 to 6 hours before bed, as for the average adult it takes that long to break down half of the caffeine. For example, the average coffee has about 80mg of caffeine, so after 5-6 hours you will still have around 20mg of caffeine in your system trying to break you out of that essential non-REM, deep sleep. Get some protein in your body to help restore your muscles during sleep. Something like nuts and yoghurt (low sugar) is a suitable snack before bed. Stay hydrated during the day and this will reduce the chances of an interrupted sleep cycle.
Modern technology does this for us these days with fit bits and whoop technology collecting sleep statistics and other insights to help us measure our recovery and sleep habits. If you prefer to go ‘old school’, keep a diary track patterns in your sleeping habits. You can also keep track of the things contributing to your poor sleep and try to remove these from your lifestyle.
Read before bed or develop a ‘wind down’ routine
Increased screen time contributes to blue light radiation exposure, which tells our brains that we need to be awake negatively affecting our circadian rhythm and reducing our REM sleep. The Sleep Foundation recommends a digital curfew an hour before bed. This allows our melatonin (sleep hormone) to be produced sufficiently. Put the kettle on, have a peppermint or ginger tea, pick up a classic printed novel and unwind. Consider selecting a book that promotes your mind to go to another place. Reading something about work or training will over-stimulate and you’ll be unable to unwind.
For a detailed guide to understanding sleep patterns check out this resource here:
Bicycle Queensland's Chair and Director, Rachel Nolan has ridden the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail each year end to end across four days since her son was four years old, he is now seven. Below is Rachel's guide on how to ride the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail!