We all focus on our training plans and incremental improvements but should we look to how well we sleep?  So, is a lack of sleep affecting you reaching fitness goals?

Sleep affecting your fitness & health

Not getting enough sleep can seriously impede your health performance.  Reading this and thinking “nah – sounds like witchcraft to me”?  Well you need to read on as there is a number of studies that demonstrate this could result in you dropping performance by as much as 10%.  So all those hours training to get tiny gains, you might be better off having a lie in!

Work Life Balance

Juggling training alongside working for a living and family life is a reality for most of us amateur athletes.  For triathletes that training plan juggles three disciplines, five if you include transition practice & strength conditioning.  All leads to time poor punters trying to squeeze more and more into their 24 hour windows.  The simplest answer to this impossible equation is to drop sleep adding a late night session or a pre-dawn ride into their agenda surviving on under 6 hours of kip.  What can this lead to?  Anything from a lack of motivation through to full-blown burn out with people walking away from their hobby for more sedentary options without such justification for cake.

Sleep Quality

Sleep isn’t just about quantity in this complicated equation though it is also about quality.  So you can now also beat yourself up for not focusing on enough quality time while asleep.  Various studies have broken down the phases of sleep to help explain this mysterious aspect of our lives that we have little understanding of.

Dummies Guide to Sleep Patterns

The dummies guide to sleep is below to help you get some flavour of this –

Pre-Sleep – Brain waves start to shift to move you into a relaxed state

Light sleep – Lasting from 10seconds to 10 minutes with your muscles beginning to relax

Actual sleep – Lasts from 10 minutes to 20 minutes and leaves you remote from external affects

Deep sleep – Lasts about 30 to 40 minutes and is followed by revisiting earlier phases of sleep a number of times each night.  Here our bodies recover & release the maximum benefits.

Listen to your body

If your an athlete not listening to your body in this way and getting sufficient quality sleep it can affect fundamental performance dimensions such as your cardiovascular performance over prolonged periods.  Your affecting racking up sleep debt that creeps into this cardio efficiency.  Its not just physical performance your mental & emotional effectiveness get damaged by this frighteningly quicker than your physical performance.

Improving your sleep quality

So what can you do about this and seek that improvement in performance through better sleep.  Firstly it is important to know your body & understand how much sleep you really need as this varies from person to person.  For me I can function well on 7 hours but cutting below this sees my performance tail off quickly.  If you need an alarm clock or catch up on sleep at the weekend then chances are you need more than you are getting.  Establishing a consistent bed time with uninterrupted sleep will help improve your quality of sleep.

Track how well you sleep

Keeping a record of your sleep is a useful metric as you can track trends alongside your performance and adjust accordingly.  Listen to your body and adjust your schedule to make this work and get enough sleep so you can unlock that extra 10% of performance.  Hopefully this has helped you consider sleep more in your training week and understand is lack of sleep affecting your fitness performance?


About the author – Billy is the founder of Trivelo Bikes and suffers from poor quality sleep so hoping to remedy this and see his PB’s next year slashed by at least 10%!

Easily share this now...

Billy Ferguson

Having founded Trivelo in 2015 after many years competing in triathlon Billy continues to enjoy training and triathlon. Founder Billy is strongest in the water but continues to try and convince his body that he is an ultra runner.

1 Comment

Jason Long · 14/01/2020 at 7:00 am

Agree with this and position sleep as a key pillar of my training.

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *