The relationship between sport and sleep
It is a known fact that physical activity prolongs sleep duration and improves sleep quality.
Athletes fall asleep quicker than those who are more sedentary and their period of REM sleep (or “dream” sleep) is shorter at the beginning of the night. There are, however, a few simple rules to follow. Train too late in the day, for example, and you risk delaying the onset of sleep due to the stress of physical exertion and an increase in your body temperature. So-called “slow wave sleep” in the early part of the night, which is highly restorative, is considerably altered in this case. Strictly in terms of physical recuperation and good sleep hygiene practices, athletes should therefore go to bed fairly early in the evening to ensure good-quality slow wave sleep.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Listen to your body clock by sticking to set times for going to sleep and waking up.
- Don’t train in the evening; opt for late afternoon instead.
- Avoid eating a very heavy dinner and make sure that you have a gap of at least two hours in which you do not engage in any intense activity before going to bed.
- Bedtime rituals are important, especially if you have difficulty falling asleep. This might include reading in bed, soft lighting and a verbena tea or similar drinks.
- Your bedroom should not be too hot (17° is better than 22°).
- Beware of self-medication! Effectiveness can vary, it poses risks to your health and there is a chance you’ll give a positive result in doping tests depending on the molecules involved.
If, after following all these tips, you’re still struggling to get a good night’s sleep, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice.
Editors: Doctors at the Centre-Médico-Sportif (Sports Medical Centre).