Get Better Sleep From A Doctor Who Helps Olympians With Their Sleep
Olympic-bound athletes maintain training that keeps them in top shape for their upcoming competitions. Team members schedule times throughout the week to train, fuel their bodies with high-performance foods, and follow routines set by their coaches, trainers, physical therapists, and other specialists.
This year, the U.S. Weightlifting team members received guidance from a sleep performance director to help them prepare for the Tokyo Olympics. When Dr. Jeffrey Durmer took on the role, the neuroscientist became one of the first staff members on an Olympic team who specializes in sleep. Durmer is co-founder and chief medical officer of Nox Health, a Georgia-based sleep healthcare technology firm. Durmer has been working as a sleep consultant to athletes since 2013.
According to Durmer, establishing a sleep schedule for athletes is just as important as training.
“All it is, is sleep doping,” Durmer told ABC News. This is done by “using natural physiology and science to improve the team’s abilities.” Durmer credits USA Weightlifting for what he calls “thinking outside the box” and “finding new ways to implement an advantage which is completely legal.”
Durmer meets with athletes as a group to educate them about the benefits and necessity of sleep. He also studies each athlete to determine what sleep patterns will give each one the best competitive advantage. Both are important parts of his job, he said.
Durmer also helps athletes to change their perception of sleep. After all, athletes focus on training as hard as they possibly can. As for sleep, Durmer says their attitudes are one of, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” What they don’t realize, Durmer said, is that overtraining can become a detriment to them if they do not take an adequate amount of time to rest and recover from intense training.
What’s more, too much of this intensity, along with the pressure of competition, and jet lag resulting from long travels can interfere with their sleep schedule. But, having a sleep performance director like Durmer helps to minimize the impact of these and other issues.
Durmer believes sleep will support mental resilience, physical resilience, immune resilience, and all kinds of resilience when athletes build it into their training routine. Athletes need this resilience, particularly when competing in the Olympics. Sleep can actually help athletes to perform at their highest level, he said.
Tips For Quality Sleep
While sleep is essential to athletes, it is just as important to people of all ages. Quality sleep is hard to get at times. But, Durmer has the following tips that he uses with athletes that help non-athletes as well:
- Find a bedtime routine that helps you settle down. It’s hard to get to sleep when we are still wound up. Slow down your activities 30-45 minutes prior to bed by practicing some type of calming behavior such as meditation, reading, stretching or anything else that helps you to relax.
- Avoid too much stimulation before bed. Turn off the TV, computer, smartphone, and all other electronic devices. In other words, eliminate all light, noise, heat, bed discomfort, or anything that stimulates wakefulness. View your sleep space as a “sleep sanctuary” where nothing is allowed in—including sleep aids or supplements— that would keep you from sleeping.
- View sleep as part of your training. Whether you are an athlete training for the Olympics, a CEO, or a student, sleep is the basis for your performance. Look at sleep as the beginning of tomorrow instead of the end of today.
Giving yourself enough time to sleep with a regular routine is within your control. However, you may not always be in control of your quality of sleep. If you have problems sleeping on a consistent basis and whatever you try does not help you feel rested, seek professional advice from a sleep physician.
Your Daytime Activities Can Help You At Night
While we can establish night-time habits that can help us sleep well, we can also do certain things during the day that can benefit us at night. The Sleep Foundation offers several recommendations”
- Get a good dose of daylight. The body’s circadian rhythm (also known as the “biological clock”) is regulated by exposure to light, which means that daylight can help normalize your circadian rhythm. Since sunlight has the strongest effect, take a walk outside, open the blinds or windows to get as much natural light as possible.
- Find Time to Exercise. Exercise initiates changes in energy and body temperature that promote solid sleep. Sleep experts advise against exercising before bedtime because it stops the body’s ability to settle down before going to sleep.
- Monitor Your Caffeine Intake. Coffee, tea, sodas, and other caffeinated drinks may energize you during the day, but a high caffeine intake can cause long-term sleep deprivation. So, avoid caffeine intake later in the day to prevent it from keeping you up all night.
- Monitor your alcohol intake. Alcohol can cause drowsiness and can affect the brain in ways that lower sleep quality. So, avoid having a nightcap before bed.
- Nap at the right time. A nap can refresh and energize you for the rest of the day. The best time to nap is after lunch in the early afternoon for about 20 minutes. Taking a nap too late in the day or for too long can disrupt your sleep.
Implementing strategies and changing your perception of sleep will not happen overnight. But the Sleep Foundation suggests starting with small changes and working your way up toward healthier sleep habits.