Recently the USA Swimming Sports Medicine Task Force began publishing a series of articles designed to help our athletes sleep better and in turn swim faster. Sleep is when the body recovers from strenuous training; allowing athletes to return to the pool refreshed, recovered and ready for new challenges. Quite a bit of great information is going to spread out over the next couple of weeks; below is a synopsis of the series.
• Decrease behaviors that may be keeping you from getting adequate sleep, like drinking caffeinated beverages, going to bed anxious or stimulated, or sleeping in too late in the day.
• Increase behaviors that will help you sleep better, like making your bedroom more comfortable and creating bed-time rituals and routines.
• Using sleep medications may not be the best option for athletes; especially if they have not been prescribed by a physician.
• Only after consulting with a physician, checking with USADA, and weighing the benefits and risks of the different prescription medicines should an athlete consider taking sleep medications.
• Jet lag is a real problem for athletes travelling across multiple time zones; however, it can be minimized by avoiding caffeine during travel, staying well hydrated, and knowing where you’re travelling and what time it will be upon arrival. The best strategy may be to stay awake during travel instead of sleeping.
• If sleeping during travel is part of your strategy you should consider wearing eye shades to decrease light, bring a pillow you know will be comfortable and use earplugs or noise-reducing headphones to decrease distractions.
• Upon arrival at your destination it is important to establish a good sleep strategy. Avoid stimulation at least an hour before bedtime (computer, TV), lower the room temperature to create a more comfortable sleep environment, and make use of your ear plugs and eye shades from travelling.