Why should sleep in­crease per­for­mance? Sleep ex­pert Dr James Maas ex­plains

Cyclist - - Performance -

‘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

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