For many people eight hours’ uninterrupted sleep is literally what they dream of. There is never enough time in the day, we are always in a hurry, and we only ever treat ourselves to a long rest before a race or special event. Sleep is absolutely vital and plays a crucial role in our sporting performance.
How long we need to sleep really is a subjective matter that depends on lots of different factors. First and foremost our metabolism, but also the length of time we are used to resting and how long we train for.
But why is sleep so important for training properly? Sleep helps us recover our strength, provides the body with the time it needs to produce the growth hormone required to repair damaged tissue and also helps us to relax our minds, a key factor in concentration. But not everybody has enough time for this physiological activity: we do not sleep long enough and we sleep badly, we feel tired even before we start training and end up collapsing on the sofa after a work-out, creating a vicious cycle of sleepless nights or restless sleep.
If taking a short nap before or after training makes us feel listless and affects our everyday routine, then it is vitally important we sleep properly and, above all, devote the right amount of time to sleep in our everyday lives. In this respect sleeping the same length of time every day can really be helpful, as is going to bed at the same time every day, since creating a routine like this will help our body realise exactly when it needs to rest. Failure to do this will result in us suffering from jetlag-type symptoms all the time.
Making sure you do not train too late in the day will also help you relax better, because the endorphins released during training make us feel restless and agitated even after the session is over.
So now all you need to do is decide how long you need to sleep. You can do this when you are on holiday by going to sleep at the usual time without setting the alarm for the following morning and just waking up naturally when your body feels ready to do so. After a few days, having made up for all the lost sleep while you were at work, you will find out exactly how much sleep you need and how long you will need to sleep when you return home and get back into training!