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Sleeping for Gold

With access to sports coverage becoming increasingly available on a number of devices, you may be forgiven for staying up a few late nights to watch reruns of the Olympic events you missed during the day. However, while you are excitedly cheering your favourite athlete over the finishing line, they are likely to be fast asleep preparing for the next day. 

Everyone knows the importance of a good night’s sleep, nobody more so than Olympic athletes. These people hone their bodies and minds to the finest point they can in order to win the gold medal they so strongly desire: good sleep is an incredibly important factor in their training. 

100m and 200m world record holder Usain Bolt is currently staying at the Jamaican Olympic athlete’s training camp at the University of Birmingham. After suffering back and hamstring injuries which caused him to withdraw from the Monaco Grand Prix earlier in July, his coach ensured Bolt was provided with a custom built, 7ft, orthopaedic mattress. This was to help ensure there would be no recurrence of the injuries which could hamper his efforts at this year’s games.

Meanwhile, 5000m world champion Mo Farah is sleeping an oxygen tent to simulate high altitude as part of his endurance training. In areas of reduced oxygen, the body produces more red blood cells which help to carry oxygen more efficiently around the body; a very useful occurrence for a long distance runner.

Clearly, good sleep is an important factor in maintaining bodily health and fitness.  We may not all be able to sleep like Olympians but we can follow some of their examples and benefit from better sleep. Around 7.5 to 8 hours is the optimal length for most people: this tends to become shorter as we age. Sleeping in a cool room also helps to relax the body and mind. Strangely, it has been found that a great number of people actually sleep better with some background noise such as a ceiling fan. Two of the most unpopular but effective solutions to feeling tired the next day are to avoid alcohol and the snooze button!

Above all, good sleep requires a good bed. It is a well known fact that, on average, we will spend around a third of our entire lives in bed, so it is vital that it is comfortable and supportive. After your late night Olympic viewing, don’t forget to set your alarm clock: you might be so comfortable that you’re late for work…