The key to riding faster is to sleep longer

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  Last updated July 30, 2019 at 4:45 pm


In cycling a few seconds can be the difference between winning or losing but it turns out the key to riding faster is extra sleep.

cycling_sports race_athlete

Sleep can improve a cyclists’ performance. Credit: Luc Claeseen/Stringer, Via Getty Images

Cycling races are often won by just a few seconds, so anything that legally can boost performance by minutes is worthy of consideration.

According to researchers from Deakin University the key might just be a matter of getting more sleep.

Extra sleep equates to a faster time

It was discovered that endurance cyclists could complete 60-minute time-trials nearly two minutes faster after getting an extra 90 minutes sleep per night for three consecutive nights.

The findings are published in a paper in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Researcher, Spencer Roberts and colleagues from Deakin, tasked nine competitive cyclists and triathletes with riding 60-minute time trials for four consecutive days on three separate occasions.

The first time they had their normal seven hours sleep each night, the second time that increased to eight-and-a-half hours, and the third it was just five hours.

Not surprisingly, the results on less sleep were poor – a 3 per cent decline in performance.

However, there was a 3 per cent increase with the extra sleep – 90 minutes more than they, as professional riders, usually felt necessary. They finished their time-trials in an average of 58.7 minutes, compared with 56.8 minutes on seven hours a night.

The ride feels the same, regardless of sleep

In general, they reported the same rating of perceived exertion each time; that is, the ride felt just as hard regardless of how much sleep they had had.

However, Roberts says their mood and “psycho-motor vigilance“, or sustained attention and reaction time, improved with more sleep and were hindered by sleep restriction.

“Getting a good night’s sleep could be the missing piece of the puzzle to success,” he says “And for riders on the Tour [de France], getting a good night’s sleep could potentially be the… difference to wearing the yellow jersey.”

Roberts says previous studies have examined the benefits of regularly getting more sleep on ball and skill sports such as football, basketball and tennis, but theirs is the first to put endurance athletes to the sleep test.


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Why we must make time for sleep

How science explains professional cyclists’ superhuman performance

About the Author

Nick Carne
Nick Carne is the Editorial Manager for the Royal Institution of Australia.

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