Sleep Cures for the Modern Athlete
You’d think athletes wouldn't need sleep cures.
They’re lean and aggressive. They lift weights, stretch and pound the pavement. They’re used to waking up early in the morning, and they’re usually dog tired in the evening. You’d really think they’d have this sleep stuff figured out.
Then why the heck don’t they?
In 2016, a meta-review of existing research showed that among Olympic, Paralympic, national and professional athletes, one third to one half are bad sleepers. Some have trouble falling asleep. Some wake up constantly. Others feel like their sleep isn’t helping them recover from their training, and others are exhausted and frazzled throughout the day.
So, basically, they’re just like everyone else.
You’d think that coaches would have solved this problem. Sure, some are trying. Every pro sports team in Boston utilizes the services of a famed “Sleep Doctor.” The Tennessee Vols football team uses a matrix of sleep-tracking apps to analyze their sleep quality. (A mistake, if you ask us! If you need a computer to fall asleep, then friend, you’re not sleeping right.)
But what about the younger athletes? What about those in high school fighting for a scholarship? Or those at smaller colleges who are fighting to make a national team?
They should be concerned too, and maybe most of all. According to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, poor sleep leads to reductions in performance, decision-making ability, learning and cognition. This happens right alongside reductions in immune function and increased weight gain (of the fatty kind). Not a winning recipe, is it? Poor sleep can literally mean the difference between winning and losing.
Oh, sure Lebron James and Roger Federer can sleep for 12 hours a night. And fine, Usain Bolt and Venus William can sleep for 10. They’re multi-millionaires. They’ve got whole teams of doctors supporting their health.
But what about the rest of us normal athletes (who want to be a little less normal)? What sleep cures can we possibly find?
Actually, it’s not so hard.
Turn down the lights!
Most athletes these days have no idea how much electric light and digital pollution affects their brains. If you have any sleep issues at all, then every second you gaze at an electric lightbulb after sundown can delay your sleep for 30 minutes to an hour. Yes, that includes your bathroom light.
You know what’s even worse? Your phone. Even if you're using that orangey “night light” mode, every tweet and every flashing Snap is a tiny needle prick to your hormonal sleep cascade. The more you scroll through Instagram, the more your subconscious brain stays active and fights against its own relaxation processes. You’re sitting around complaining about not being able to fall asleep, but meanwhile your subconscious feels like it’s fighting a swarm of mosquitoes.
Lights out after 10PM. Wear blue-blocker glasses if you have to look at your phone. Just try for one night and see what happens. We dare you.
Restore your depleted minerals!
You’re an athlete. You sweat a lot. Gatorade has already taught you that you need to replenish your electrolytes. Well you know what’s the greatest electrolyte of them all?
That’s right, magical Magnesium. Take a heavy dose. Pair it with Zinc. Then toss in the purest golden sunlit droplets of Vitamin D3, and you’ve got yourself a perfect muscle and CNS recovery supplement. Best of all, it helps you sleep like a baby.
How? Well, magnesium plays an important role in supporting healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Zinc is considered a "sleep modulator" that seems to somehow govern slow-wave, nondreaming, deep sleep cycles, and studies have shown that a vitamin D deficiency correlates to a significantly increased risk of sleep disorders.
And here you were, sweating all day, depleting all your electrolytes. You had no idea you were sweating out your sleep ingredients, did you?
Take Hibernate. That’s why we created it, after all. We’re athletes like you, and Hibernate helps us get 9-10 hours of sleep every night. (We’re still trying to up our game to Lebron-levels.)
Cut out all the noise!
Leaky faucets. Cars passing by. Upstairs neighbors walking in high heels. Some drunken freshmen yelling at the end of the street. Whatever causes it, incidental noise will wake you up and drastically reduce the quality of your sleep.
Your brain, you see, it still runs while you’re asleep. It’s like a background scanner, constantly tuned to your environment, listening for nocturnal predators. It doesn’t have to work terribly hard, to be honest. If you’re out in a natural environment, the only sounds are crickets, katydids and the wind in the leaves. There’s just so much glorious white noise! In a modern, urban environment, however…things are a little bit louder. Every jarring noise makes your subconscious mind think a jungle cat is about to eat your face. Even if it doesn’t wake you up, it kicks you into a shallower sleep phase, where your body can’t fully recuperate.
Generate white noise. Turn on an electric fan while you sleep. We know at least a half dozen tri-athletes who sleep listening to nature recordings. Figure out what works for you. Wrap yourself in an auditory blanket of pure sleep and relaxation.
You train hard during the day. Train just as seriously at night. Getting 9-10 hours of sleep a night is the greatest PED of all. It supercharges your training and makes you a beast on the field. You don’t need fancy apps or a sleep doctor monitoring every quiver of your mattress. All you need is to:
1) Get used to darkness at night
2) Take your Hibernate, and…
3) Let white noise relax your brain while you sleep.
Leave sleepless nights for the guys on the other team.