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Sleep like an athlete

Sleep like an all-star to win at life

When Usain Bolt dashed to the finish line a record of six times at the 2008 Olympics, he took the well-earned title of fastest man in the world. When asked about his intense training regime, he later said the most important aspect sleep.

Now, most of us would have expected him to say something like sports nutrition, sprint practice or mental attitude. But Bolt is firm that sleep is tops. “A sleep routine is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body,” he said.

Pro-athlete sleep habits and what we can learn from them

Did you know that Lebron and Serena Williams say they sleep an average of 10 hours each night? If you think about it, it makes sense. It’s hard to perform your best when you feel exhausted and athletes especially know they must take care of their bodies to be successful.

One study of the Stanford men’s college basketball team showed that extra time spent sleeping translated into running faster sprints, improved free throws and improved memory when learning new techniques.

Just as pro teams have various sports coaches (for example, the Proteas have a head and assistant coach, but also batting, bowling and fielding coaches), many also have specialist consultants and coaches for other things, whether it’s sports dieticians or even a sleeping coach.

Nick Littlehales is a professional sports sleep coach who has worked with the likes of the Real Madrid soccer team. Some of his top sleep tips for athletes are things that are easy to implement for anyone:

  • Block out the light in the bedroom at sleep time. Nick has even advised players to take black bin liners with them while travelling to make their own makeshift blackout curtains. Light plays a major role in sleep.
  • Cut down on caffeine. Nick says that he’s had to work with soccer pros who routinely drink coffee throughout the day as part of the European culture, without realising the effect it can have on sleep.
  • Keep the bedroom at the correct temperature. Nick says the ideal temperature is slightly cool – a hot room is not conducive to sleep and temperature is very important for good sleep.

Other easy tips that can help you to sleep like a pro are:

For more fun sleep facts and expert sleep advice, why not visit our Sleep Blog?