High-intensity and long-term training are necessary for cyclists who want to get good scores in races. In other words, Time and effort are needed. However, some time should be saved for sleep to make your efforts pay off. We all know the importance of sleep more or less. However, do you know the reason behind it and the correlation between sleep and athletic performance?
This article is dedicated to telling you:
Never rush for quick results
Only through proper sleep
Can we gain enough energy
To navigate us through the journey.
Now, let’s find out the mysteries behind sleep.
What is sleep
Sleep takes up nearly a third of our life, and seldom do people know why we have to sleep， can we stay up all the time and be energetic? The answer is NO.So, what is the mechanism behind it exactly?
During the daytime, cyclists train hard and for a long period, their body, as well as brain, are in a constant state of moving, and it consumes lots of energy. To the law of energy conservation, we need time to recover and resume from fatigues suffered earlier. So, sleep takes up the rule and helps us to be energetic again when a new day is coming.
Two phases of sleep
One of the most popular theories nowadays divides sleep into a few phases. The former four is NREM or SWS, the last phase is REM.
Non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), also known as quiescent sleep, is, collectively, stages 1–3, previously known as stages 1–4. The rapid eye movement stage(REM) is not included. There are distinct electroencephalographic and other characteristics seen in each stage. Unlike REM, there is usually little or no eye movement during these stages.
The mental activity that occurs in NREM and REM is a result of two different mind generators, which also explains the difference in mental activity. In addition, there is parasympathetic dominance during NREM. The reported differences between the REM and NREM activity are believed to arise from differences in the memory stages that occur during those two types.
REM typically starts within90 minutes Trusted Source of a person falling asleep, and it cycles around every 90 minutes.
During REM, the body and brain go through several changes, including:
- rapid movements of the eyes
- fast and irregular breathing
- increased heart rate (to near waking levels)
- changes in body temperature
- increased blood pressure
- brain activity (similar to waking levels)
- increased oxygen consumption by the brain
- sexual arousal
- twitching of the face and limbs
REM phase is crucial for us because:
- metabolism slows down during this period, a relaxed body can help the muscle to recover.
- Blood flooding to the brain increases. Injured brain neurons are repaired.
- The temperature drops, physical strength is conserved and energy regained.
- Infants’ brains keep growing
- The pituitary gland excretes growth hormone, and teenagers grow bones and height.
- Repair oxidized collagen, make skin smooth and supple
We cannot control the impulse of falling asleep, but we can keep our natural sleep rhythm by controlling environmental factors
Is sleep important for cyclists？
It is essential for all human beings since it’s a process of regeneration and restoration, through which, your body repairs itself and gains energy for you to function well during the daytime. For cyclists who need enough energy(much more than non-athletes), sleep can be a decisive factor in their performance. So, YES, it is important for cyclists.
Team Sky was the first to notice the importance of sleep for professional cyclists. They even carry sleep pods to the race for their cyclists to take a nap.
Why sleeping is important for cyclists?
Resting between training and recovery is one of the most crucial factors for us to maintain health and physical strength. Doctor Charles Samuels from the Centre for Sleep & Human Performance indicates that: over-training with sleep deprivation will harm our physical performance and mental health. On the other hand, good sleep patterns will appear as a crucial factor for athletes to improve their performance in a long run.
Although the mechanism of sleep is not understood thoroughly, said in both the clinical and academic fields, its importance outshines all others when considering human health and sports performance.
Break-taking, nutrition, and training are the cornerstones of performance and overall well-being. For health, nothing can compare with a good night's rest, for it takes up a third of our life. It combines our health with our physical recovery and performance capability.
How sleep will help cyclists better performance
- It can help muscles to repair themselves. Growth hormone produced during stage 3 of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) or dreamless sleep helps to repair tissues damaged during exercise; the longer a period of sleep, the more time for muscle tissues to regenerate and grow.
- Help you fight off diseases. During this process, your body produces cytokines, the kind of hormones that help the immune system fight off infections.
- It helps retain and consolidate memories, as well as improves cognitive function. Cyclists sometimes need to make quick decisions and move, and a good night's rest can definitely make them more present at a race.
Factors that affect our sleep
Modern society is filled with things grabbing our attention. For example, caffeine can make it hard for us to fall asleep, and alcohol lowers the quality of sleep.
It can stay in our bodies for a long period. So if you drank coffee at lunchtime, half of the caffeine will not be digested until you get off work, and a quarter remains in your body at the midnight. So, it’s better to drink coffee in the morning. Also, the diuretic effect of alcohol will make you go to the bathroom all the time at night.
2. Using electronic devices
People use their smartphones and computers a lot nowadays, and it became a habit to check their portable devices constantly. However, we need to understand that the blue light emitted from the screen can affect our circadian cycle, thus making it hard for us to fall asleep.
Training too much can cause physical exertion. Some cyclists reduce their sleep time and increase more high-intensity training due to a lack of available time. Training until midnight and start working out early the next morning, hoping to achieve their goals as soon as possible. However, it takes a toll on both physical and mental health.
Feeling overwhelmed from daily life can also keep you awake at the night. In modern life, people are constantly bombarded by information from various sources, we seem easier to feel stressed by trivial things. However, we must take the edge off from time to time.
There are some methods you can practice to gain better sleep quality and quantity.
Maintain a regular schedule of going to bed and waking up
It’s important to keep a consistent sleep regardless of what day it is. Thus we can keep a consistent pattern of sleep.
Avoid beverages like alcohol and coffee, which will affect your quality of sleep. Some people may think alcohol can help them to sleep better, in fact, due to the diuretic effect(Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it promotes water loss through urine.), it actually worsens the quality of sleep.
Avoid using electronic devices before your sleep.
The blue light emitted from your smartphone and computer will make it hard for you to fall asleep, also it may grab your attention away from sleep.
Don’t eat or drink before your sleep.
Maintain a proper room temperature
Keep your room nice and clean, some fragrances may also help you sleep.
Health is the prerequisite to everything else, we need to take good care of our bodies. For cyclists who want to better perform in their field, it’s necessary to know the importance of taking rest.
Please remember :
Life is simple,
just pedal, eat and sleep.