As this year’s Olympic games wind down in Tokyo, we look to the decorated competitors for insights into their athletic achievements. Olympic athletes are equipped with a myriad of resources devised for maintaining their performance, such as professional coaches, specialized training regimens, and physical therapists. Physical health is not the sole area of concern for these athletes however, as continuous exertion and competitive pressure is mentally straining as well. Athlete mental health recently drew attention when tennis player Naomi Osaka and gymnast Simone Biles cited it as the reason for withdrawing from their respective competitions. Even the world’s greatest athletes have health concerns not limited to physical ability, and some teams have responded by consulting new varieties of specialists.
Olympian Sleep Health
Sleep is a key component of comprehensive wellbeing. Both physical and mental health are affected during the physiological sleep process, including aspects crucial for athletic performance. Reaction time, concentration, and decision making abilities are all fortified by sleep—and all are necessary for athletic competition. To better hone these mental abilities, some sport teams have enlisted the aid of sleep science professionals. In preparation for this year’s Olympic games, the U.S. Weightlifting team consulted neuroscientist Dr. Jeffery Durmer to examine how their sleep could be tailored to result in the best performance.
A key step, Durmer says, is firstly informing athletes on the importance of sleep. For Olympic athletes trying to train as much as possible, sleeping may seem like a restful break that only detracts from training time. In reality, sleep is necessary to recover from exercise, and it is even suggested that athletes may require more sleep than non-active individuals.
Rigorous training schedules and the stress of competition are not the only obstacles preventing adequate sleep however; in the case of the Olympics especially, professional athletes must frequently travel long distances for competitions. To reduce the impacts of jetlag, the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting team underwent their training in Hawaii, which has a closer time zone to Tokyo. Thanks to the insight from their sleep specialist, these Olympians can rest soundly knowing that it will benefit their competitive ability.
We may not all be professional athletes, but we all need a good night’s sleep to be at our best during the day. Somnology approaches sleep medicine with a comprehensive perspective, examining the ways in which it affects both mental and physical wellness. Somnology’s SLaaS Platform simplifies this approach by delivering the technology and medical insight of a sleep lab directly to its users. To learn more about SLaaS and the effects of sleep, continue reading the SleepTalk Blog.