Not getting enough rest impairs your attention, hinders your reflexes, and leaves you prone to emotional outbursts. For athletes, that’s an awesome recipe for poor performance—and possibly injury and lasting shame. Which is why top professional triathlete Andy Potts makes sure to get 11 hours a night despite being a dad to two young kids and following an intense training schedule.
Improve Your Performance with a Better Sleep Regimen
We asked Potts about his methods and ran some of his answers by Dr. Charles Samuels, medical director at the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary.
1. My wife and I share a king-size bed. I’m not a spooning type of guy.
All couples should sleep in beds big enough that they won’t wake each other. If your spouse snores, have him or her sleep in another room. —Dr. Samuels
2. Serta mattress; medium-hard, no pillow top. I like two nice hard pillows. The soft ones drive me crazy, because I want my head to be elevated.
Firmness of mattress and pillows is totally personal. Go with what works for you.
3. A bolster pillow between my knees aligns my back and makes for a more comfortable rest.
4. I always untuck the sheets. I like unrestricted movement, so that when I roll over during the night it doesn’t wake me up.
5. I need pitch black to sleep, so we installed blackout curtains, which also reduce street noise.
6. I use a humidifier, which prevents dry throat and nose, two things that used to interrupt my sleep.
Upper-airway discomfort is a common cause of poor sleep. Any kind of humidifier will help. Also try a saline nasal wash, like Ocean Nasal Saline Spray.
7. I prefer to sleep in 65 to 68 degrees. I’d rather be too cold than too hot.
An athlete’s resting core temperature can vary dramatically with training intensity.
8. Ever since my kids were born, I sleep with earplugs. They’re only noise dampening, so I can still hear the major cries, but the little things no longer wake me.
9. I set my alarm clock to an easy-listening station so that I don’t wake up to that annoying blast, which instantly puts me in a bad mood.
People use all kinds of systems and sophisticated gadgets to wake up happier. Some athletes use bio-alarms, which are sup-posed to wake you at your lightest stage of sleep during a 30-minute window. But there really are no rules about what works best.