In our recent blog on sleep and performance we outlined the benefits and detriments of sleep and the lack thereof. We spoke about the definition of sleep loss, that is two successive nights of <7 hours sleep, and how many athletes in particular do not get enough sleep to recover fully and maximise on their performance.
A recent study presented looked to investigate the sleep need of athletes from a number of sports. They asked feel they are getting enough sleep, determine how many hours these athletes feel they need to feel rested and then measured how long it took to fall asleep and the duration of that sleep across many sports.
And this got me thinking about an all to common discussion with athletes. Whether it be due to scheduling, facility availability, or even convenience athletes are asked to train at times (either early or late) that are just terrible for managing sleep and recovery. It is an all too common occurrence for me to hear stories from athletes that the club has scheduled recovery for 7 or 8am the day after a game. I’m not sure who or what thought this was a good idea, but you have probably stolen your athletes best recovery tool, sleep.
And it may seem too simple at times but simply asking your athlete whether they feel they are getting enough sleep (see the study below) is a great starting point to determine whether they are reaching their sleep requirement.
So how do we address this sleep need?
Simple steps are always a great starting point.
1. Ask athletes their preferred training and playing times. You may not have control over these all the time but you can start to plan around this if you are aware that their preferences for their best recovery may be altered.
2. Establish the preferred amount of sleep and start to measure whether they are approaching this amount regularly, and particularly around heavy competition or training blocks.
3. Work with the athlete and staff to protect sleep as a recovery tool. This means scheduling sessions that you have control over at times that will maximise the opportunity for recovery. As an example with the track athletes that I coach, I will often not schedule any training the day after their biggest training session or any competitions, and if I do I ask that they do it later in the day whereby they do not need to set an alarm.
4. Finally if you know sleep is going to be affected (late competitions or training or individual sleep disturbances), see a sleep specialist or sports doctor to look at options to improve sleep hygiene and set up healthy sleeping habits.
Read the study here:https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2020-0896