Sleep – The natural doping method

February 3rd 2020

By Matt Hill
Categories: Athlete Resources

Sleep – The natural doping method

Champions of data talking to Dr. Henri Tuomilehto

(Another) Sleep podcast – a short one but packed with powerful information. It seems the most relevant to share this week as we’ve both spoken to a few of you in the 5-6days about (not) sleeping and feeling drained.

To summarise the episode for you:

  • Try increasing your sleep by 30-60min per night for 2 weeks to compare your energy levels; you will then know if you were or are getting enough, but you have nothing to lose by sleeping more.
  • Should you choose to use a sleep app, don’t review the data every day; rather review the information every 2 weeks to look for trends. Analysing sleep too much will stress you out and can then lead to more problems, just the same reason we don’t train to power or pace – it stresses the mind and body.
  • Pro’s trust their body, more so than technology (sleep or HR or power, etc). The best athletes are those very in-tune with their body and so take the option to adapt by opting to train as needed, or not at all.
  • Sleep hormones promote repair and growth (HGH, testosterone, etc), whilst waking hormones (cortisol) do harm and damage (catabolise). Recovery happens when you sleep, not when you are relaxing whilst awake on the sofa, etc.
  • Respect sleep – prioritise it!Recovery is paramount to your ability to train. If you skimp on it, you’ll limit your recovery and growth.
  • Sleep is a trainable quality; you must set yourself up to be good at it. Establish a sleep routine – plan sleep into your daily routine, just like training.
  • Eat regularly (basically avoid getting hungry) to avoid food comas (drowsy after eating big meals) during the day.
  • Use the knowledge of food comas to help you sleep – eating your main meal late to help sleep (it makes you sleepy). Henri recommends everyday should end with a big meal – even if at irregular times. The harder your day the faster you’ll become drowsy!
  • Restrict naps (if you have the ability and can) to 30min; any longer can disrupt your sleep at night. If you don´t / can´t get a nap, don’t stress about trying.
  • Alcohol is the most used, self-prescribed, sleep drug. It does make you sleepy but will disrupt the whole night. Make rules for yourself – no alcohol on working days, limit your consumption on weekends (when your bigger training sessions are), etc. Know and own up to having alcohol and that it will make you less energised in the mornings.

We’ve referred multiple sleep related podcasts to you all now. The hope is that the hosts/guests (world class coaches, World Champion athletes and now scientist) highlight and reinforce our advice and suggested curfews (also mentioned in the Winter Training Bible).

If you want to get the best out of your body you need to make sleep part of the recipe, not as an afterthought or as wasting time that you could use for work, training, etc.