Coach Tip Tuesday: Don't Slack on Sleep

Posted On:
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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Here we are, my friends - the first Coach Tip Tuesday of the Fall!!

Today’s pearl of wisdom: don’t slack on sleep.  Thomas Dekker eloquently said, “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”  And you know what, my friends??  He’s right.

In this world of busyness - where productivity and long task lists are valued and where we’re expected be “on” for so much of our lives, it’s SO critical to take the time to take care of ourselves.  Sleep is generally the first thing that people will sacrifice to “fit it all in,” but it should honestly be the last.  I’m looking at out there!!  A number of the athletes who I work for are champs at skimping on the sleep (you know who you are), and I’m actively working to change that and make everyone champs at prioritizing sleep. :)

Sleep is critical to our functioning as humans and as athletes.  During this time, our bodies undergo important recovery and repair processes that help us function at our best when we’re awake.  REM sleep is particularly important as it provides energy to both the body and the brain.  When we sleep, the body repairs damaged tissues and muscles, releases hormones, repairs memory, and consolidates memory.  Ever wonder why you’re a miserable fool when you’re tired??  17 hours awake equates to a blood alcohol content of 0.05 in terms of how with it and alert we are.  Bump that up to 21 hours awake, and it’s the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content of 0.08.  Yes, folks.  Lack of sleep creates the same effect as being DRUNK does on our brains and bodies.

When athletes neglect basics like sleep, it always eventually shows up in their training data.  In a worst-case scenario, an athlete will become chronically fatigued and will need to pull back from their training in order to heal.  In essence, it becomes the equivalent on an injury that an athlete needs to take time to recover from.  A good coach will be able to recognize these signs before they get too far along and make modifications and suggestions along the way to help athletes manage their training schedule and life balance.  Sometimes this does mean skipping a workout in favor of getting sleep.  (I personally did this this past Thursday, so I practice what I preach, people!! :) )  In the long run, choices like that usually work to the benefit of the athlete since workouts completed when the athlete is overly tired put the athlete at high risk of overtraining, chronic fatigue, or injury.  Honestly, there are times in a training schedule where sleep is *definitely* more valuable than squeezing in a workout if it’s a choice between the two.

What do I suggest??  Take the time every week to look at your schedule ahead of time and plan when you’re going to sleep just like you plan when you’re going to be at work or when you’re going to get your workouts in.  Of course, life happens, and we don’t always hit everything according to plan.  BUT having a plan in the first place increases the likelihood that you’ll get some quality sleep.  Also, when it is time to sleep, put the dang phone down.  Quiet your brain and your mind, lay your head on a comfy pillow, and use the time before you drift off to meditate or just relax.  Even time spent just laying down doing nothing can have a restorative effect, so if you’re an insomniac or have trouble getting to sleep, there is still value in taking the time to relax and do nothing.

My challenge to all of you is to create a sleep plan for yourselves this week.  So, get on it!!  Sweet dreams and training, my friends!!


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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