Why Great Sleep Is Essential For Cyclists

Would you consider cutting food out of your training plan? Of course not. Food is essential for both performance and survival. However, when it comes to sleep, many athletes have a different mindset.

To fit everything into a busy schedule, athletes often cut back on sleep.

To be your best, you need good quality sleep. For years sleep was ignored, but today's best athletes understand the importance of sleep and use it to get the upper hand.

Sleep Has A Massive Impact On Performance

During our podcast interview with sleep specialist Dr. Winter, we learned sleep has big effect on performance. The average college athlete, accustomed to 8-9 hours of sleep per night, will drop 20 lbs on their bench press after only three nights of restricted sleep—5 hours of sleep per night.

Dr. Winter estimated that poor sleep can reduce a cyclists FTP by 5-25%. To put this loss into perspective, a cyclist with a 300 watt FTP can lose up to 75 watts from poor sleep.

Consistency Pays

Just like one bad meal will not ruin a healthy diet, one bad night of sleep will not significantly affect your athletic performance.

Performance benefits that come from sleep happen over an extended period. Focus on sleeping well consistently every night. Dr. Winter's advice is, sleep now for the race months away.

Good Sleep For Optimal Recovery

There are three stages of sleep that you cycle through during the night. Those are:

  • Light Sleep
  • Deep Sleep
  • Dream Sleep

Your body recovers from training the most during deep sleep. If your sleep quality is poor, you may not be getting enough deep sleep, and your recovery could be falling behind. Without proper recovery, your performance and health will suffer.

Because your ability to recover reduces with age, it is even more important for older athletes to get enough good quality sleep.

Next Steps

How many hours per night should you sleep? Is it ok to nap? Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? To get the answers to these questions and more, read our article, How To Sleep Better.

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