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Sleep As A Superpower, Celebrating World Sleep Day With A Focus On How Sleep Affects Sporting Performance

World Sleep Day is celebrated on Friday 17 March 2023, and this year the theme is “Sleep is essential for health”. After all, when asked about his intense training regime after the 2008 Olympics, Usain Bolt said the most important aspect was sleep.

Restonic SA, a leading bedding brand in Southern Africa, is driving a similar message around #PowerOfSleep. In March, Restonic is focusing on how sleep is an imperative component of sporting success.

South African sportspeople tapping into the power of sleep

World Sleep Day almost coincides with the start of this year’s Absa Cape Epic (the most televised mountain bike race in the world),  Dr Craig Uria, 2021 Absa Cape Epic Masters Winner, and his race partner, Prof Mike Posthumus, will be riding as the Restonic team.

“Sleep is a vital component of overall health and well-being, and it plays an especially important role in athletic performance, including cycling,” says Dr Uria. “Adequate sleep is essential for physical recovery, cognitive function, and overall health, all of which are crucial for optimal cycling performance.”

Dr Uria is a respected chiropractor (M. Tech Chiropractic (B.A.) M.C.S.A.) and holds an international certification in Paediatrics through the Angolo-European College of Chiropractic, as well as an International Chiropractic Sports Science Diploma (ICSSD). He is also the 2023 SA Champs winner and the 2021 Absa Cape Epic Masters Winner. He and Prof. Posthumus, who is a sports scientist, sports performance consultant and coach, recently won the 2023 Tankwa Trek and the 2023 Attakwas Endurance races together.

They have been training hard for the Absa Cape Epic, as well as prioritising getting enough sleep. “Sleep has been suggested to be the best recovery strategy available to any athlete,” says Prof Posthumus. “It’s proposed that this is due to it being an optimal condition for cell growth and repair, especially during the slow wave sleep (also called deep sleep) phase. In addition, during sleep, the body produces growth hormone and testosterone, which are essential for muscle repair and growth.”

Dr Uria says that research studies have shown that sleep extension among sleep deprived athletes results in improved physical and cognitive function. “More specifically, results have shown improvements in sprint times, reaction times and skill-based tasks. Sleep deprivation studies in athletes have also demonstrated that sleep loss impacts performance of athletes through both physical and cognitive pathways. This is particularly important for cyclists, as cycling is a demanding sport that requires a high level of physical endurance, as well as skill and alertness to race safely and avoid catastrophic injury.”

Sleep is not only important for cyclists, but every athlete. International rugby player, Sibusiso Sangweni, says he believes sleep is his superpower. “We put our bodies under a lot of stress during the day,” he says. “I believe it’s very important to have a great bed, because, after a tough game, your body has taken a lot of knocks and all you want is undisturbed sleep. The power of sleep is what will help me to one day lift the Rugby World Cup trophy.”

How anyone can sleep like an athlete

The World Sleep Society (the organisation behind World Sleep Day) notes that, “just like eating well and exercising, sleep is a behaviour that is foundational to one’s physical, mental, and social well-being. However, sleep is not yet commonly considered an essential behaviour for good health. World Sleep Day is an opportunity to promote sleep health”.

Adele de la Rey, Group Marketing Manager at Restonic, says the company’s goal is to help people to unlock the power of sleep in their lives. “We’re encouraging people to make sleep their superpower, whether they consider themselves athletes or not,” she says. “Everyone can benefit from learning to sleep like a champion. Just as athletes develop a training regime, we can all work to improve our sleep and enjoy its benefits in our lives by developing a better sleep regime.”

This means improving one’s sleep hygiene, which includes what happens both in and out of the bedroom. According to Restonic, all successful sleep strategies should encompass:

  • Creating a comfortable sleep space – one that is free of distractions
  • Establishing a relaxing pre-bedtime routine
  • Sticking to a steady sleep schedule
  • Embracing healthy habits, such as good nutrition, hydration and exercise throughout the day

“It’s all about finding what works for you,” says De la Rey. “If you take concrete steps to build habits that make sleep a priority, you should hopefully see improvements in just a short time. We hope that this World Sleep Day, more people will commit to making sleep their superpower.”