How to Sleep Like an Olympic Athlete
The same sleep strategies used by world-class athletes are also good for regular folks.
Sleep Like an Olympian
With all 160 Hilton rooms now redesigned to ensure the athletes are getting
an optimal night's sleep, the question is, how can we sleep like an Olympic
"Eight hours of sleep is the standard," says Mednick. "There is
a range, but 7.5 to eight hours of sleep is the optimal amount."
Like the athletes' rooms, all of the same rules apply: low light, cool
temperatures, and background noise.
"Sleeping in low light is important," says Mednick. "You need
the hormone melatonin to sleep, and melatonin is only released under low-light
Cool temperatures, as Rosekind arranged for the athletes, are just as
important for those of us who will watch the Winter Games from our couch.
"The room temp needs to be on the cooler side," says Daniel McNally,
MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Connecticut
Health Center. "Your body temperature tracks your circadian rhythm, so as
night begins, your body temp falls and it reaches a minimum right after you go
to bed. If you are in an environment where you can't lose body heat, for
instance if it's hot and humid, you won't sleep well."
And while most of us love to hit it, stay away from the ever-popular snooze
"Snooze alarms are the enemy of good sleep," says McNally. "It
feels better, but it's not good in terms of keeping your internal circadian
clock strong so your brain knows when it should sleep, and when it should get
The Impact of Alcohol
Alcohol is another no-no when it comes to sleeping like an Olympian. Even
though we think that glass of wine will knock us out, not so.
"It makes you sleepy at first, but then as your alcohol levels fall,
your sleep is more disrupted and fragmented then normal," McNally tells
WebMD. "It makes things worse rather than better."
Without sleep, the analogy of a blood alcohol level of 0.05 rings true --
even if you skip the glass of merlot.
"You're going to be sluggish, not have enough energy, and have an
irritable mood," says Mednick. "It's difficult to stay focused and make
decisions because your body is not in its optimal state."
Personalize Your Sleep
The art of sleep, while a crucial part of sports performance and everyday
life, can be easy.
"I use to work at NASA so I can say this, but this is not rocket
science," says Rosekind. "It's kind of amazing that this is not
high-level stuff, but most people have not evaluated their own sleep
environment, even though they spend a third of their lives asleep."
When it comes to catching Zzz's -- whether you're a superstar athlete who's
ready to go for the gold at the Winter Games, or an average skier who avoids
moguls like the plague -- the key to sleep is to optimize your sleep
environment, but also go with what works for you.
"You need to control and create a sleep environment that is personally
the most comfortable for you," says Rosekind. "You want your sleep
surface and the accouterments, like pillows, blankets, etc., to be as
comfortable as possible for you."