How To Get An Athlete’s Night’s Sleep

5 min read

Last Modified 4 February 2022 First Added 2 February 2022

By Nicholas Barber

Medal-winning sleep advice

Achieving enough high-quality sleep will be essential for Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes competing at the highest level in Beijing 2022.

We asked three of them to describe the bedtime routines they rely on to get the sleep they need to reach the highest level of athletic performance.

Here’s their medal worthy advice.

Paralympic skier Millie Knight

 

Paralympic skier Millie Knight

“Sleep is vital to my performance. The sport I do is very dangerous and if you’re not on the ball and totally focused mistakes can creep in. That’s when injury and all sorts of crashes and horrible things tend to happen.

“A good night’s sleep is basically like a superpower. When we’re racing, I can be burning up to 7,000 calories a day, so sleep really is crucial when it comes to getting a good recovery and good performances. Wake up time depends on where we’re racing and what time we need to be at the slopes. It can range from 4am to 7am at the latest.

“When I was recently competing at the World Championships, I had the most incredible night’s sleep just before I competed; we went on to win gold in the Super Combined.

“Without good sleep I certainly wouldn’t have won that medal.”

What are your secrets to an athlete’s night’s sleep?

“I listen to Harry Potter audiobooks every single night on a timer as a ritual! Half an hour before I go to bed, I switch my phone off to make sure I don’t have any blue light. Where we are in China is pretty cold, so I have my fluffy socks on too!

“I always try to go to sleep before ten o’clock every single night, no matter what I’m doing the next day. If I can go to bed earlier then brilliant. I also find the mattress and pillow combo is important. If it’s too hard or too soft you end up waking up with a sore back and to really get a good performance, you don’t want anything sore!”

Record-breaking bobsleigh pilot Lamin Deen

Bobsleigh pilot Lamin Deen

“For me sleep is better than any supplement you can get. Sleep is key for success because it’s repairing your mind, your body and your spirit ready for the next day. You literally can’t beat it! If you’ve just had two hard training sessions for instance, in your mind you might feel alright, but your body needs to catch up.

“Sleep is my super power because there’s nothing like waking up in the morning having that fresh feeling. Relaxing and switching off before you go to bed is key.”

What’s your top tip for an athlete’s night’s sleep?

“It’s finding a method of stopping the doubts in your mind. I’ll read a book, watch a film and do things to take my mind totally away from racing. At some points in the evening you wouldn’t even imagine I’m a bobsleigher – you’d think I was a normal guy in a hotel in San Maritz!

“My golden rule is to put away any electronics like the phone and iPad an hour before I go to bed in order for me to sleep well. If I don’t put them away, my mind just keeps going. You need to let the mind deactivate so you can relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

“In this sport, you have to get all the sleep you can, so eight or nine hours is my window of sleep. I wake up feeling like I’ve slept for 24 hours just by getting an extra hour – that’s Lamin Deen one hundred percent charged!”

History-making snowboarder Katie Ormerod

Snowboarder Katie Ormerod

“Snowboarding is a high-risk sport and I need to be one hundred percent awake and focused every single time that I compete. When we’re training abroad, we often have a full day’s snowboarding and then a strength and conditioning session, or gymnastics, or a cool down session. In-between, I try to make the most of the few periods I have to rest and have a bit of chill time. That usually involves laying in my bed scrolling through social media and fully relaxing between training sessions.

“Because you train at altitude, that’s tiring in itself. On nights when I’m struggling to sleep, I go back to meditating and trying to relax myself. I always try to get at least eight hours of sleep.”

What are your top tips for getting an athlete’s night’s sleep?

“Make sure you’re well rested beforehand and be really strict with your bedtime. Don’t go to sleep just after using your phone. Do a bit of meditating, drink lots of water so when you finally go to bed, you’re already relaxed.

“I try to do around 20 minutes of stretching before bed. I lie in bed with all the lights off and play a 10-minute sleep podcast with nice music and chilled vibes, which helps me to sleep easier.

“As I spend a lot of time travelling and going to lots of hotels and apartments I’m always in a different bed. I can now really tell the difference between a good mattress and a bad one. I always hope I’ll get a good one because it really makes a difference to my sleep!”

 

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with our athletes, check out our hub of athlete profiles and sleep-related articles here.

For information about how sleep affects an athlete’s productivity and performance read our article here.

*According to a survey of 2,000 adults in the UK, conducted between 21st 26th January 2022 by OnePoll on behalf of Dreams

 

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