Better Cycling Through Sleep: Dr Lauren Costantini's Tips & Tricks

We all know that we need good sleep for optimal recovery and performance on the bike, but many of us still skimp on getting enough quality rest. Here, Dr. Lauren Costantini breaks down some simple tips and tricks for improving your nightly rest so you can fully recover and prime yourself for quality training and racing.

On the podcast below, Dr. Lauren also drops some science from recent studies on sleep and athletic performance, as well as some suggestions for natural sleep aids and a list of things to avoid. Dr. Lauren holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

Sleep trackers like Whoop can measure not only how much sleep you get, but how much of each type of sleep.

Related: HRV: The Endurance Athlete's Complete Guide

Dr. Lauren also has some comforting news for those of us who struggle with sleep the night before a big race: don't worry! 

"If you have one bad night of sleep, we're seeing that there's not really a big effect on your performance," she said. "But if it becomes more chronic then we do see a reduction in peak power."

On the flip side, getting adequate regular sleep boosts performance. Dr. Lauren quotes some recent studies, such as one done on basketball players who boosted their sleep from less than 7 hours to more than 8.5 hours — and saw their sprint times improve by a second and their free-throw accuracy increase by 6 percent.

Dr. Lauren's Checklist for Good Sleep

"I have a checklist that I give all my athletes," Dr. Lauren said. "I literally say to them that if you can check off this entire checklist I guarantee that your sleep will be improved. The first three are pretty easy."

  • KEEP IT COOL: keep your bedroom at about 65 degrees
  • KEEP IT DARK: keep your room as dark as possible, covering any light indicators from electronics, and use blackout drapes or shades
  • KEEP IT QUIET: wear earplugs or use a white-noise app like Calm 
  • HYDRATE: drink a pint glass of water before bed
  • NO SCREENS: turn off all screens an hour before bed
  • GET ON A SCHEDULE: go to bed and get up at same time
  • NO FOOD 3 HOURS BEFORE BED: going to bed with a full belly puts your body in an active state (bonus, people often lose weight on this schedule because most of our calorie surplus happens late at night)
  • STRETCH: do some gentle yoga moves that target your neck, shoulders, and side-body to open your ribs for better deep breathing at night
  • MEDITATE: nothing too intimidating here! Just take 4 deep breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth, counting each breath. Your mind is going to wander, but just bring it back to your breathing and start counting again. (podcast on mediation for cyclists)
  • LISTEN: listen to something relaxing like an audiobook, Gregorian chants, BBC Radio, sleep apps like Calm, or the tranquil underwater sounds of whales

Listen to the podcast for more of Dr. Lauren's insight on sleep, including her recommendations on how to use sleep tech like Whoop and Aura or the free Elite HRV app.

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