Why It’s Time to Prioritize Your Sleep, Triathletes

How often do we hear, “I will sleep when I am dead?” Sleep is crucial for our success, and I am not just talking about triathletes. I am saying that business owners, parents, entrepreneurs, and even kids, need their sleep. As a coach, I tell my athletes: ”Sleep MUST be a part of your routine. It is part of your recovery and your success as an athlete.”

Why? Scientific literature has shown what happens to athletes who are lacking sleep, whether it may be acute sleep deprivation or chronic sleep deprivation. The lack of adequate sleep for athletes can cause many different issues such as:

  • Both aerobic and anaerobic performance can decrease.
  • A decrease in competitive ability.
  • A decrease in their determination or their drive.
  • A decrease in intensity for their training (i.e.: Rather do a 30 min run, than interval work on the track).
  • Negativity toward various aspects of life (training, work, family, etc.).
  • A greater amount of overall fatigue.

We see above what goes on physically and mentally during a lack of adequate sleep. What is going on internally in the body with lack of sleep for an athlete?

During sleep, the body will discharge growth hormones which stimulate general growth and cell repair. If an athlete is lacking in sleep, sleep deprivation stops general growth and cell repair, especially after a hard workout or a race, and will cause another hormone to rise called cortisol, which is your “stress hormone.” Having high cortisol for an athlete has an opposite affect on repairing general growth and cell repair. Check out this article from my sponsor, First Endurance, about “How Cortisol Affects Performance.” It goes a little more scientific, for you geeks out there.

So, how can an athlete improve their sleep habits and patterns? Here are a couple of recent suggestions that I have heard. I, personally, am trying to do the same, so let’s get more sleep as triathletes:

  1. Shut down the screen (Computer, TV, Smart Phone) down AT LEAST 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
  2. Kick the pets out of your bed (Still working on that one!).
  3. Keep the bedroom cool. Don’t load up with clothes or blankets.
  4. If you need to read, read a book or a magazine, but put “Nibblers” or “Angry Birds” down. This gives off the light that will prevent your brain from shutting down (see #1).
  5. Add 15 minutes to your evening. For example, if you get ready for bed at 10 pm and are in bed by 10:15, let’s try getting ready for bed at 9:45 pm and in bed by 10 pm.

Thanks to Arianna Huffington for her very brief TED Talk about “How to Succeed: Get More Sleep.”

Triathletes, sleep is crucial for your success, not only in triathlon, but in everyday life. Not only will you be a better athlete, but you will be a better parent, wife, husband, Mom/Dad, co-worker, business owner, and entrepreneur.

In the book “The Story of the Human Body” by Daniel E. Lieberman, he talks about how sleeping well is a privilege of wealth. He states, “People with higher incomes get more sleep because they sleep more efficiently.” Why is that? Wealthier people are less stressed and fall asleep more easily.

Something to think about, and bear with me:

  • Your body is a bank account.
  • Your growth hormones are money.

As a triathlete, fill up your “bank account” with “money” through sleep. Sleeping well is a PRIVILEGE for triathletes. We are VERY fortunate that we are able to swim, bike, and run (lift). We need to look at how “wealthy” we are with enough sleep, and be grateful for that.