How to Sleep Like an Olympic Athlete
The same sleep strategies used by world-class athletes are also good for regular folks.
Noise Control and Comfortable Beds
Noise is another factor that can have an impact on sleep.
"With noise, what most people need to know is that it's the intrusive
noise events, like doors banging, that are the most disruptive for peoples'
sleep," Rosekind tells WebMD. This problem, however, is easily solved by
masking the intrusive sounds with background noise, like a fan or sound
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
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
"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."
Sleep is a critical factor in ensuring Olympians stay at the top of their
game, and the changes Rosekind made help optimize their ability to fall asleep,
sleep well, and wake up rested.
"Not only do athletes need sleep to improve on their athletic skills,
but the restoration that occurs within muscles during deep sleep is
important," says Sara Mednick, PhD, a sleep researcher at the Salk
Institute in La Jolla, Calif. "If you don't get enough sleep it can be
detrimental to your performance."