YOU ARE FEELING SLEEPY
Why should sleep increase performance? Sleep expert Dr James Maas explains
‘The rule of thumb is that you’ll see significant gains by getting just one more hour of sleep per night. That sleep will mean your glucose metabolism will increase, which means you’ll have more energy; your cortisol levels will decline, so you’ll feel more relaxed as cortisol is linked to stress; your growth hormone will increase, meaning muscle and bone development will increase – crucial for training – and with more sleep you lower your respiratory exchange ratio, which basically means you’ll be burning more fat instead of lean muscle. You can’t just be increasing sleep the night before a race though and expecting all that. You have to establish a new body clock, or circadian rhythm, which will take four or five days to start to be beneficial.
‘If you experience drowsiness in the day, I’d recommend that instead of that coffee you take a 15-30 minute “power nap” to get rid of the deleterious effects of flagging energy, which for most people happens between 1pm and 3pm, as the natural circadian rhythm has two lows, one at night and one about eight hours after we get up. Try to get into as prone a position as possible, and don’t sleep for more than 30 minutes. Longer and you’ll end up in a deep sleep cycle – sleep cycles are around an hour and a half – which will leave you feeling groggy when you wake.’
‘You could do a 20-minute FTP test or similar,’ he says. ‘The key thing is not to do this too frequently, or up your exercise in general, as those things would probably lead to improvements on their own.’
Wainwright also suggests an online Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT), which measures reaction times over two minutes using a ‘click when you see it’ program. I decide to follow the Stanford model of a six-week trial, resolving to measure my 20-minute average power and maximum minute power outputs on a Wattbike at the first, third and sixth weeks, and to take a PVT at the same time every day.
Documenting my sleep times will be crucial. Over the last month I’ve been