Science of Performance: Morning Workouts Worth Sleep Deprivation? Pt 5

By Dr. G. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS of Swimming Science and Center of Optimal Restoration , Creator of Swimmer's Shoulder System, Swimming Science Research Review Swimming World correspondent

SANTA CLARA, California, April 10. WITH NCAA's closing, it is time to return to sleep!

Sleep Recommendations
Being the fifth article of this series, hopefully the brevity of avoiding sleep deprivation is clear. Now, knowing the recommendations and methods for improvement are key! The National Sleep Foundation provides the following recommendations:

* Aged 1 to 3 years old: 12 to 14 hours per night
* Aged 3 to 5 years old: 11 to 13 hours per night
* Aged 5 to 10 years old: 10 to 11 hours per night
* Aged 10-19 years old: 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night
* Adults: 7-9 hours of sleep per night

Now, there are always people who are 'short sleepers' (Dr. Dave Salo) who likely have genetic variations for enduring minimal sleep. However, very few individuals have this variation and if you do, it isn't clear being able to minimally sleep maximizes athletic performance. Simply put, follow the above recommendations as best as possible. If sleep debt occurs, as it commonly does, attempt to “catch-up” on the weekend, as it seems this is beneficial. However, knowing optimal sleep strategies is essential for maximizing sleep.

Super Sleep Strategies
Simply closing your eyes doesn't equal restful sleep! However, may use sleep aids in an attempt to sleep. Unfortunately, these means can alter sleep, memory, and result in rebound insomnia. Instead, employing super sleep strategies is necessary for healthy behavioral strategies!

  • Be Consistent: This is knowingly difficult for collegiate and high school swimmers with heavy homework, but with proper scheduling and routines, deadlines are achievable.
  • Get outside: This is easy for year-round outdoor swimmers, but for those locked indoors for six months a year, make sure you're getting enough sunlight during the day. Sunlight stimulates the pineal gland which allows melatonin secretion at night which improves sleep quality.
  • Cool your room: Tim Ferriss suggests a room temperature of 67 – 70 degrees. The specifics are individual, but a cool room does help reduce body temperature and aid recovery
  • Sleep in Silence: If you have a noisy roommate, earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones are an easy fix. These tricks decrease sleep interruptions and improve sleep quality.
  • Use a firm mattress: Floppy mattresses encourage poor sleeping posture. Instead, sleep on your side with your arms at your side and a pillow between your legs.
  • Read before bed: Light, non-stimulating reading before bed is encouraged. I suggest some light fiction or school notes!
  • “Earth” or “Ground” your bed: This sounds like an aluminum foil suggestion, but preliminary research, Ober (2000), indicates connecting the bed to the outside ground may decrease pain! More research is obviously necessary, but may provide relief for those with chronic shoulder pain (or try the Swimmer's Shoulder System).
  • Limit naps: If you nap, limit the nap to less than 45 minutes and nap no later than 2 pm, as late naps may impair nighttime sleep.

As you see, many super sleep strategies exist. Try a few of these options, but first work on getting enough sleep each day! The last part of this series discusses nutritional and supplemental strategies for success!
Dr. G. John Mullen, DPT is the owner of of the Center of Optimal Restoration and creator of Swimming Science. He received his doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California. G. John has been featured in Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, and the International Society of Swim Coaches Journal.