When you’re an Olympic athlete, almost every aspect of your life is evaluated, monitored and controlled - from what you eat and drink to your sleep. If you are going to bring home the gold, you have to be at your best. Even losing an hour or two of sleep a night can diminish your performance. So, how do the Olympians sleep?
Prior to the Winter Olympics in Torino, Mark Rosekind, PhD, a former NASA scientist, board member for the National Sleep Foundation, and President of Alertness Solutions, was brought in to evaluate the sleeping conditions of U.S. athletes. Based on his recommendations, changes were made to 160 Hilton rooms. Here is what you should know so you, too, can sleep like an Olympian.
A proper sleep environment consists of having the proper lighting, noise control, and temperature. Rosekind recommended blackout curtains to keep rooms dark, but not overly dark. Lighting should be low, but there should be sufficient enough lighting so you do not stumble and get hurt if you get up to go to the bathroom at night.
In regards to room temperature, cooler is better. Have extra blankets on hand if you get cold at night. To control noise, Rosekind recommended that a sound machine or fan be used for background noise to drown out intrusive noises that could disrupt sleep.
Beds and bedding
Personal comfort is a big deal when you need your sleep. A proper mattress and bedding is crucial to getting a good night’s sleep. The original Olympic program had athletes sleeping in twin beds. Rosekind had that changed. Athletes were brought in full size plush top mattress sets and lots of pillows. Cotton sheets and blankets were also brought in.
If you are sleeping in a bed that is too small, too hard or too soft, or if your bedding isn’t comfortable for you, it’s time to make a change.
Miscellaneous sleep factors Other areas that were tackled for the U.S. Olympic team were the installation of reliable alarm clocks. Athletes were also discouraged from using the snooze button.** Use of a snooze button can trick the body into not becoming fully awake as quickly as it should. This in turn can hinder your body from going into slumber at night in a timely fashion.**
Of course, alcohol was off limits to athletes. Besides the obvious reasons, alcohol is now known to lead to poor, disruptive sleep. Anyone who needs to be on top of their mental and physical game should avoid alcohol altogether. It can make you feel sluggish and tired the next day.
While these changes may seem minor, they were reported to have made all the difference in the sleeping experiences of the athletes. While you may not be getting up in the morning to compete for a gold medal, your life and what you do during your day is just as important.
Examine your sleeping environment and make changes where needed so you, too, can sleep like an Olympian.
To learn more about the simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your sleep, consider enrolling in my free sleep training course for insomnia.
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Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free insomnia sleep training. His online course uses CBT techniques to teach participants how to sleep better without relying on sleeping pills. More than 5,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.