Traveling to competitions during season can take a toll on athletes, it can easily disrupt sleep schedules, which is one of the most important aspects of recovery for all athletes during season. Getting the proper amount of sleep is essential in order to increase athletic performance. It is important for athletes, especially those traveling across time zones, to consider some ways to stay ahead of the effects that traveling can have on the body .
1. Adjust to the correct time zone
Adjusting to a new time zone requires a bit of discipline. If athletes stick to an appropriate bedtime, it will take about one day for each hour of time difference to adjust to the new schedule. When athletes have to travel from coast to coast it can be challenging to maintain a regular sleep schedule, but it is important to make an effort to make adujstments. For example, for athletes who are traveling west to east it might be a challenge to go to bed early, due to the time change. In this situation, athletes should attempt to go to bed slightly earlier a few days before the leave for competition, so that the body isn't too shocked with a dramatic change in bedtime as they arrive at their competition destination.
2. Turn off all lights and devices
Bright lights and engagement with technology can miscue the brain to thinking that it needs to stay awake longer, which reduces the production of melatonin. A reduction in melatonin levels makes it harder for the body to fall and stay asleep. A good rule of thumb for athletes trying to get a good night's rest is to stop using technology 30 minutes before bed, so that the brain can ease into a healthy slumber. Athletes who are looking to increase their athletic performance should take the time to implement this into their daily schedules.
3. Turn down the thermostat
It is proven that colder temperatures can help people sleep more soundly. The body's temperature drops down to a set point, optimal for the brain to induce a deep sleep. This allows the body to fall asleep more quickly because it doesn't have to waste time energy attempting to regulate body temperature, which in turn makes for a deeper sleep. Athletes should think about turning the thermostate down before going to bed, and if this isn't an option, sleeping with a fan going and a light cover sheet will be helpful in lowering body temperature.
Tip: Rest Like a Caveman
Experts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine say you should think of your sleep environment like a cave: it should be cool, quiet, and dark. The same idea applies to naptime in between prelims and finals. Having a roommate on travel meets can add an element of surprise to the equation. Athletes should bring earplugs and decide on a bedtime that both athletes will follow to avoid disrupting each other’s sleep. Having a back up alarm in the morning is important, so that the athlete wakes up in time for their warm up, especially if the time zone makes it difficult to wake up in the first couple days of a meet.
Athletes who are traveling to compete should do research on what effects traveling can have on the body, and come prepared with some strategies to combat the threats they might have on their athletic performance. Athletes should consider the time zone they are traveling to, and attempt to slightly adjust their sleep schedule a few days before leaving. Once the athlete arrives at the hotel they should play around with the thermostat, the cooler the room, the better the sleep. Finally, athletes should shut off all electronics 30 minutes before going to bed, so having a set bedtime is important for athletes to have in their schedule.
Further reading on tips when traveling to competition: