How to Sleep Like an Olympic Athlete

The same sleep strategies used by world-class athletes are also good for regular folks.

From the WebMD Archives


Next, Rosekind tackled the beds.

"The second big area had to do with the beds and personal comfort," says Rosekind. "With the Olympic program, the training rooms originally had twin beds, which you can imagine for some athletes could be a problem."

Out went the tiny twins and in came full size plush-top mattresses and box springs with extra pillows (some of which were hypoallergenic), cotton sheets, and blankets -- all an easy fix for athletes who were simply too big for their own beds.

Finally, Rosekind considered the other end of the spectrum -- waking up. For athletes who tend to burn the Olympic torch at both ends, a reliable alarm clock is essential.

"The third thing which is so often overlooked is an alarm clock," says Rosekind. "Hilton [Hotel] has a new alarm clock that you can trust to go off and it's easy to operate."

Taking Care of the 'Extras'

After making major changes to the Hilton Hotel sleep environment at the Olympic Training Center, Rosekind looked at amenities in the athletes' rooms that affect sleep.

"The extra things we looked at were lighting in the room, like a floor lamp and desk lamp, and a very comfortable desk chair," says Rosekind, which reminds people to work at their desk, not in their bed.

So after all of the renovations Rosekind made to the rooms, have the athletes seen any improvements in performance?

"We know optimal sleep translates into optimal performance," says Rosekind. "Given the amount of 'measurement' that Olympic athletes undergo, it became clear that an independent and focused evaluation on just the sleep changes was not going to be possible. However, there is no question that improving sleep will lead to enhanced performance."

Anecdotally, Rosekind says speed skater Apolo Ohno is pleased with the results.

"The first room was for speed skater Apolo Ohno," says Rosekind. "After the first couple of nights he was already saying that he could feel a difference, not only a good night's sleep but how it was affecting his performance. When all the other athletes saw his room, they wanted to know when their's was being done because it was going to translate into a performance difference for them."