Sleep as a Recovery Tool

Sleep as a Recovery Tool

📅December 5th, 2014, 02:20

According to Wikipedia, a nap is “…a short period of sleep, typically taken during daylight hours as an adjunct to the usual nocturnal sleep period. Naps are most often taken as a response to drowsiness during waking hours.” Sleeping and napping are both important, and often overlooked, components of our training plans.

While naps are taken for granted in our younger days (why did we ever try to refuse nap time as children?), research shows that catching a few zzzzzzz’s during daylight hours may help improve athletic performance – particularly if you’ve got multiple workouts in one day. Also, if you take a look at Karine Spiegel’s 2009 study on sleep patterns, it has been shown that even one week of inadequate sleep can cause negative effects on glucose uptake and cortisol levels. So basically, lack of sleep impacts your body’s ability to refuel properly and therefore negatively impacts future workouts and/or races.

How can you use sleep as part of your recovery plan and to help prepare for important competitions?

In periods of heavy training, make sure you leave extra room in your schedule to allow for additional sleep. Preferably you’ll fall asleep within 20 minutes of your head hitting the pillow and if your life allows, will sleep until you wake up in the morning. Making rest a priority will certainly pay off in absorption of training benefits. If you have difficulty falling asleep, set up a nighttime ritual – light stretching, warm milk or tea, a book, etc. – and be sure that the room you’re sleeping in is as dark and quiet as possible so that you are able to sleep without interruption.

Napping can also be added in to give the body additional time to rest and recover. Shoot for either a 30 minute cat nap (exactly like the photo above, of course), or a full 90 minute sleep cycle if you have time. Sleeping for 25-30 minutes is the perfect amount of time to refresh yourself without going into deep sleep (risk of waking up groggy if your nap ends in the middle of deep sleep, so avoid naps in the 60 minute range). Giving yourself a full 90 minutes allows time for a REM sleep cycle, which can help kick-start the recovery process.

Listen to your body to dictate timing for naps (again, as long as your schedule allows!) but be sure to keep your nap early enough in the day that you will be ready for bed time when it occurs.

Let your head hit the pillow without guilt, and know that proper planning for sleep is one of the easiest ways you can make sure your body has ample time to recovery.

You. Better.