Top Advice for Athletes From Our Professional Sleep Coaches
Crescent Health is a service that pairs professional sleep coaches with athletes, medical professionals, busy executives, or anybody who wants to improve their sleep health. Here’s the recommended game plan when they work with professional athletes.
· 4 min read
The athletic industry has recognized that proper sleep health is integral to peak performance. That’s why professional athletes and sports teams, including U.S. Olympic teams, have relied on dedicated sleep specialists.
Crescent Health is a service that pairs professional sleep coaches with athletes, medical professionals, busy executives, or anybody who wants to improve their sleep health. Here’s their recommended game plan when they work with professional athletes.
Allow Time to Adjust for Travel
In most sports, being a professional athlete means a busy travel schedule. Immediately going from a long car or plane ride to the field is less than optimal. Sleep coaches recommend that athletes arrive at least one day before a competition to acclimatize to the sleeping arrangements and to adequately adjust for jet lag.
That's why Olympic athletes typically arrive up to a week before their competition. COVID restrictions that were in place for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics limited athletes’ time in the Olympic Village, which presented the challenge of recovering from jet lag more quickly than usual.
Simplify the Sleeping Area
Practically every detail of how human bodies look and work the way they do can be attributed to evolution. In many cases, evolution has caused humans to adapt to an environmental hardship that’s no longer an existential threat, but humans are still hardwired for survival in an ancient world.
In particular, we're programmed to be alert when exposed to daylight, and sleepy when exposed to darkness. Some scientists believe that it’s specifically the blue component of light (that’s found in sunlight, but not as much, for example, in campfire light) that tells the human body to be alert by blocking the production of melatonin. This has led to the development of accessories for mobile devices that filter out blue light. The theory is that people can still use their mobile devices in bed, without the blue light telling their brain that it’s daylight and that they should be up and about.
Many sleep coaches, however, recommend simply not using mobile devices in bed at all. It’s not just the blue light that can keep the brain active — it’s the emails and Instagram feeds and mobile games that can interfere with getting into a relaxed state.
Reducing the effect of non-electronic stimuli is important, too. This means creating a sleeping environment where you can regulate the temperature and reduce environmental noise.
In instances where environmental and transient noise is unavoidable, many people have found success with a sleep sound machine that generates random white, pink, or brown noise. However, experts recommend avoiding inexpensive sleep machines that play looping sounds of rain or oceans. While natural environmental sounds can help you enter a relaxed state and stay asleep, many of the low-priced sound machines use short sound loops. The human brain is very good at pattern recognition, even subconsciously, and the device can lose its effectiveness after it’s heard that same short repeating sound pattern enough times.
Allow for Cool-Down Time
It’s important to have a routine to get mentally prepared for great sleep. This typically includes stopping activities which can overstimulate the brain or blood flow, and switching to activities that encourage a relaxed state. For some clients, it might be meditation or deep breathing exercises. For others, it might be listening to relaxing music or reading a favorite book.
Review Your Diet Habits and Your Overall Health
Everybody knows that eating patterns can have an immediate effect on sleep. For instance, excessive caffeine intake, or eating too soon before bedtime, can cause problems. And, there’s some science that supports the old advice of drinking warm milk before you go to sleep.
Your overall diet is even more important. Simply put, a healthy diet that helps maintain health and performance during the day will help sleep performance, as well. This works in a lot of ways, from providing the essential nutrients that help the brain work its best, to preventing or reducing health conditions like obesity and diabetes.
Our sleep coaches start by understanding the client’s vitals (including weight, age, and blood pressure), when they take their meals on a daily basis, and their diet as a whole. They’re all important. Professional athletes also work with nutritionists to build meal plans with caloric and nutrient intakes customized for their needs.
They may recommend dietary supplements, like melatonin, to help regulate sleep, or refer the client to a doctor if they believe there are potentially undiagnosed medical issues. (Over-the-counter sleep aids like diphenhydramine are not part of a healthy sleep regimen.) People who find themselves using them regularly should take the time to learn what the underlying problems are.
Fixing Things Requires Understanding What's Broken
“You can’t improve what you can’t measure.” — Gray MacKenzie
The use of sleep tracking equipment is vital to the field of sleep coaching. Sleep trackers can provide details about the things one might not otherwise notice, such as waking up multiple times per night, or having an elevated heart rate. Professional sleep coaches analyze this data and prioritize solving the big problems.
Sleep tracking hardware and software takes many forms. In traditional sleep clinics, patients are often “wired up” with multiple biometric sensors. Consumer-grade trackers are less invasive and intrusive, with sensors built into rings, watches, or wristbands. Good sleep tracking software, which can track and analyze trends, is just as important as the hardware.
But for athletes and other professions where optimal sleep performance is mission-critical, sleep tracking technology is just a tool, not a solution. Professional sleep specialists use sleep trackers, along with a full understanding of the client’s exact needs, to set specific goals and work with the subject to achieve them.
For athletes and other professions where optimal sleep performance is mission critical, working with a professional sleep specialist is a smart choice. The mission at Crescent Health is to make it an easy choice for anybody.
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