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


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."

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 athlete?

"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 conditions."

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 button.

"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 up."