Too little sleep has a negative effect on the reaction time, the immune system is weakened and there is a risk of depression.
An extra hour of sleep for elite athletes would in many cases give better results than more training, says HC Holmberg, professor of sports science at Mid Sweden University.
Eight hours of sleep is a benchmark for good sleep, but according to the Swedish Olympic Committee, half of all elite athletes sleep poorly and a quarter are tired during the day.
Sleep is incredibly important for recovery. We put it on the same priority as diet and fluids. Much focus has been on nutrition and fluid, but the importance of sleep may not have been understood. If you can add extra sleep, we have seen nice changes in performance, says Holmberg.
Peter Reinebo, operations manager for SOK (Swedish Olympic Committee), is involved in running a sleep project that will pay dividends in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo 2021 and the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022.
We believe that the road to the medals begins with good sleep. This is a project that will help realize Olympic dreams, says Reinebo.
Two hours of lost sleep can significantly increase the risk of injury for young athletes.
Coordination and concentration are affected by sleeping too little, then the risk of being injured also increases, especially in contact sports, says HC Holmberg.
Two hours less sleep each night for a week means that an elite athlete can become physically exhausted much earlier than normal and the reaction time can deteriorate.
Most athletes think that they should train an extra hour, but in many cases the athletes are already at very high training volumes, an hour of extra sleep would in many cases give better results than more training, says Holmberg.
It is well known that caffeine can affect sleep, but the question is whether you can eat or drink something to sleep better.
How much, when and what to eat and drink in connection with bedtime is sometimes mentioned that foods such as cherries, bananas, spinach, almonds, kiwi and chamomile tea can indifferent ways affect serotonin and melatonin activity and thus sleep. There is still some research to be done in this exciting area, says Holmberg.
Melatonin is a sleeping pill used by athletes, but Holmberg cannot determine how widespread it is.
We have not looked at it specifically. I think some people use it, but it’s more about routines to, for example, prepare for travel between time zones. The key is education, what do you do if you are going to travel eight hours east to Asia, what should you think about?
Holmberg believes that athletes may have difficulty acknowledging sleep problems.
It can be so in some cases, some do not understand the effect of sleeping. But it may be easier to add an hour of exercise instead of an hour of sleep.
The time of day that the exercise is conducted also affects sleep.
In swimming, you have very early training times. In Australia, it has been seen that the swimmers sleep less and then you may have to add time and sleep another time of day, maybe take a power nap. Research shows that most of their elite active people sleep worse before competition, says HC Holmberg.
Everyone who is part of the Olympic team or the top and talent project can take part in the research that is conducted when it comes to sleeping well and they also get a portable bed set.
Frida Nevalainen works with the sleep project at SOK.
Who does not want a coach asleep? You have coaches in physics, tactics and the mental part, getting sleep in is a great complement for our active people, says Nevalainen.
As an ice hockey player, she has participated in the Olympics in2006 and 2010.
Now they get to learn the importance of routines around sleep in a very individual way so they can maximize their recovery, it is something I myself would have liked to take part in as active.
A selected group, ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo 2021, it is about 17 active people, also receive extra training in the art of sleeping under optimal conditions.
It involves six training sessions and bed testing.
It’s about making a bed to sleep. They will have bespoke beds, duvets and pillows. But also help to create a sleeping environment that makes them sleep better. Sleep is the most important part of the recovery phase. It is also performance-inhibiting or performance-enhancing, Reinebo states.
During the Olympics in Tokyo, SOK furnishes a special apartment that goes by the working name “Lugnet”.
There are no good living rooms in the Olympic apartments where the active people will live. We want to create an environment that is quiet where there is no TV. You should be able to rest, meditate or take a power nap. You should be able to book a room but also get there spontaneously.
There are no good living rooms in the Olympic apartments where the active people will live. We want to create an environment that is quiet where there is no TV.
The beds in the Olympic Village are made of hardboard and will be snapped up.
It’s not bad stuff but supplemented with the bed sets we will have with us makes it really good, says Reinebo.
To further improve the conditions for the active, SOK will also invest in air purifiers.
The air in an Olympic village is not always good for those who have allergies and respiratory problems. These are new buildings and quite often they are not super-cleaned, there may be moisture, it is simply not inhabited and we have experienced this so many times.
Which winter athletes will get help with sleep before the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022 will be nailed by SOK this spring.
In the battle for Olympic medals, recovery is at least as important a building block as diet and exercise. We will fight for every hour of quality sleep for the Olympians, says Sanjay Verma, sleep coach at Sleepacy who supports the Swedish athletes before the Olympics.
Reinebo only views the collaboration with a bed company positively.
We go to bed with Sleepacy, then we get opportunities for education, coaching, beds and bed sets, says Reinebo.