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Kat Torrance offers tips for maintaining a regular sleeping pattern in lockdown

A good night of sleep is vital to help athletes perform at their peak.

With training loads reduced and routines interrupted by the coronavirus lockdown, some athletes may be finding it difficult to stick to their regular sleeping pattern.

It can be tempting to enjoy a few more hours in bed in the absence of early morning training sessions.

But in order to return to regular training post-lockdown, athletes should avoid falling into bad habits.

British diver Katherine Torrance – a Commonwealth silver medallist – has shared her advice for using sleep to maintain good physical and mental health.

My routine

Us British divers are still training hard – we’re just missing the pool side of it.

We do sessions on Zoom most days, sometimes twice a day, which covers our gymnastics, conditioning and weight sessions.

I’m actually using my bike as well, which I haven’t done in years!

So I haven’t really changed my routine too much.

We also just got a new puppy, so she’s keeping me on my toes as she gets up at about 6.30am every day.

Because I know I’m going to be awake at 6.30am, I still go to bed around 9pm and I’m asleep by 10pm, like I normally would be.

I make sure I sleep for about eight-and-a-half hours each night and I’m more of a morning person.

I like getting up, getting things ready and getting the day done.

Counting sheep

I’m really glad I’ve been able to maintain my sleeping pattern, but I know a lot of athletes at every level may be struggling to do the same.

Don’t worry, that’s completely understandable.

As athletes, we’re so used to pushing ourselves at training and expending all the energy we have available.

Usually, we are craving bed time and can just fall asleep as soon as our head hits the pillow.

Although we’re still training somewhat normally, we’re not exerting as much energy as we normally would, so you might find that you get into bed and both your brain and body are still really active.

It can be frustrating, but if you’re going to emerge from this lockdown in good shape, you need to prioritise sleep.

When this is all over, you don’t want to be struggling to get back into your normal routine.

Torrance’s tips

Sleeping at a set time can be easier said than done, but there are a few rules I try to stick by.

I distance myself from my bedroom as much as possible, so it is purely the place I go to sleep.

I know it can be difficult for anyone who lives with their parents – you’re bound to spend a lot of time in your bedroom.

But even if you do, try to make sure you spend less time actually in bed, so when you get in at night, you know it’s time to unwind.

Many of us use our phones a fair bit more in the evening, particularly nowadays.

It’s great if you can limit your screen time, or at least get off your phone/tablet/laptop about 20 minutes before you want to be asleep.

I use that time to just lay in bed and daydream, which helps to gradually switch off from the real world.

Not looking at the time is also crucial.

If you’re struggling to sleep and you know you’ve been awake for two hours, you then think about the fact you’re not sleeping, which makes it even more difficult.

Make sure your room isn’t too hot. I prefer a cold room over a hot room, otherwise all you can think about is how hot you are.

Use this time to make sure your routine is as close to normal as possible, so you are ready to return to the pool when the time comes.

Remember, having a good sleep will make you happier, brighter and make things easier for you.

Sleeping Dos and Don’ts

Dos

  • Stick to a regular bed time to build a routine
  • Keep your room dark and at a cool temperature
  • Write down thoughts and concerns before getting into bed, to ‘download’ the day
  • Do a winding down activity to prep your mind and body for bed (like reading)
  • Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ AND on silent
  • Focus on your breath and the heaviness of your body on the mattress to separate from your thoughts.

Don’ts

  • Avoid eating badly and consuming caffeine
  • Remove clocks from your room (they encourage time checking)
  • Don’t have LEDs active at night
  • Avoid using your phone/tablet/laptop in bed
  • Try not to expose your brain to screen light right before bed
  • Limit fluid intake in the evenings

Source: English Institute of Sport

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