Most Americans would agree that there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. In the high paced, multi-tasking culture that we live in, many sacrifice sleep in order to get more accomplished throughout the 24 hour time limit we all must live by. I would definitely consider myself an expert when it comes to multi-tasking, but from work to family commitments, training, drinking beer and beyond I feel like I could always use more time.
Unfortunately, when we are tight on time, it is usually our sleep that suffers the most. I’m sure you have heard people say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Big mistake, tough guy! I use to live by this creed, but no longer. And guess what? Yup, that’s right… I’m now sharper and more productive in everything I do.
Doctors say adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but this is completely individual and there are plenty of doc’s that would recommend more sleep. The average American gets about 6.9 hours each night and needless to say this is just shy of the MINIMUM amount we are aiming for. An important side note to consider is that athletes in the midst of a high volume training schedule will require even more sleep. As a rule of thumb when you find yourself putting in a good amount of training time each week you should shift the decimal point of the number of hours you are training to the left and add that number to your sleep time EACH night.
(Example: 15.0 hrs of training per week = 1.5 hrs additional sleep EACH night)
Why is sleep so important? Well, for starters, only when we are well rested and recovered can reach our full potential as athletes. It is when we sleep that the body rebuilds itself and balances hormonally. This is the time when our body naturally produces Human Growth Hormone (HGH … can be ingested to increase the amount of HGH in our system and is commonly referred to as a performance enhancing drug that is illegal). HGH when NATURALLY, is produced extremely beneficial and is the hormone that allows us to recover. It is when we are sleeping that our body makes the gains to allow us to go further and faster.
So now that we know why it is so important to get a good night’s sleep, the question becomes how can we make this work? The answer: a good ole fashion nap-a-roo! Seriously. And if you don’t believe me or think naps are only for lazy people then ask any pro triathlete if they nap. (Hint: you better believe they do)
I suggest trying to fit a nap into your schedule 2-3 days a week to start. These naps should be 20-30 minutes MAX! They can be scheduled after early morning training sessions, during lunch, or immediately following work (perhaps even before the drive home or your evening workout). I must admit these short naps can be frustrating in that once you fall asleep it’s time to wake back up, but I promise the more you nap and your body adapts to this short mid-day rest the quicker your body will shut down and GET TO SLEEP! I recommend using a cell phone, stop watch or alarm clock in order to stay on point with your nap time.
Finally, the best part about these little cat naps is you get a lot of bang for your buck! What I mean is that your 20 minute power nap will NOT be equivalent to 20 minutes of night time sleep. Each 20-30 minute nap will equate to a valuable 1hr 40min of additional night time sleep. So if you can only sleep for 7 hours at night but can fit in a lunch time siesta (only 20-30 minutes!) you will have effectively brought your sleep total up to 8hrs 40min. Not only will you return to work noticeably refreshed and sharper than ever before, but you will be well recovered and ready to go for your next training session. If you are able to carve out a little more time and you feel you are benefiting from one nap try upping the ante with a second nap a day.
Give it a try and have fun feeling well rested and fresh.
Extra (interesting) reading: If you are interested in learning how to put the least amount of time in to get the MAX results with your body in terms of endurance, speed, weight loss, weight gain, muscle gain, strength gain blah blah blah then check our this book from NY Times best-selling author Tim Ferris. Click here to see the Amazon reviews.
Written By: Coach Chris
Owner, Ridgewood Tri Athlete LLC
USAT Certified Coach
USA Cycling Coach