Joop Zoetemelk in 1980 winner of the Tour de France once spoke the legendary words: ” you win The Tour in bed.” So Zoetemelk was one of the first athletes who underlined the importance of a good recovery and a good sleep. Especially in stage races the ability of a rider to recover properly is essential, it is a factor that can make the difference with the other competitors. Nevertheless, in the world of sports the importance of sleep and a good recovery is often underestimated. What effects sleep has on the performance of athletes? How can you improve your sleep? In what ways can athletes handle their sleep? What impact does sleep have on well-being and performance?

On a big screen: ‘you win the Tour in bed’         Joop Zoetemelk winner of the Tour de France in 1980


Research shows that approximately 15 million Thai are often suffering of a bad night’s sleep. This can lead not only to health and welfare problems, but also to economic damage by poor performance in the workplace. By poor sleep, moreover, two biorhythms of the body get out of balance: the sleep-wake rhythm and the body temperature rhythm. This allows the body to produce less growth hormone and too much cortisone. The day after a bad night’s rest you feel lethargic and one is less resistant to stress.


Some advice to get asleep more easily. Not everyone will respond the same on a tip. So it’s a matter of trying which tips are best for you. Most tips come from experience in practice and are not scientifically proven:

Take care of relaxation  in the evening before going to sleep. By listening to quiet music leads already to rest, but also a book  promotes a good night’s sleep.

Provide good sleeping hygiene and excellent sleeping conditions. Sleeping  hygiene is primarily due to the quality of the mattress. A good mattress ensures that perspiration is well drained. Regarding the circumstances, it is mainly the temperature and ventilation of the bedroom, the relationship between light and dark, dark room promotes sleep and naturally a bedroom where there is peace and quiet.

A high-protein snack in the evening stimulates the action of the growth hormone. Athletes who do power training have done this already for a long time, but a protein snack also promotes sleep.

Try to go to bed every evening at the same time. For sure this will help you to sleep better.

Try to use sleeping tablets as few as possible and only on advice of a sports doctor.

Before you know you are addicted and you cannot sleep without pills. So be very careful with sleeping tablets. I have seen too many cyclists in my life who were real junks because of sleeping pills.

Find a good sleeping partner.

See later for other sleeping hints.


Do a power nap. That’s a nap of about twenty minutes during the dip that often occurs after the lunch break. After a power nap, you are alert the rest of the day. Whether it also helps to improve your performance is still an open question for the experts. One sleep expert is in doubt while the other is very positive about the effect of a power nap. Kasper Janssen, performance physician at the International Rowing Association, commented: “You cannot compensate a lack of sleep but with a power nap you stimulate the recovery. We tested it with rowers and it seems to work. Athletes get much energy from a power nap in the afternoon. “

Take care. Don’t make the power nap too long because that can cause a bad sleep at night.

Power nap in the airplane                                                                 Or in the airport

Although a power nap is not possible for everyone, it would be a great advantage according to Kasper Janssen for about 75 percent of the athletes. Use a dip after the lunch break to take a power nap. That’s what athletes do, according to the performance physician.

Riders are often too warm during sleep. In that case, the ventilating capacity of the mattress is an important feature to pay attention to, which also relates to the duvet. During sleep occurs moisture loss through transpiration.

The warm moist air has to go somewhere to evaporate. In a poorly ventilated mattress and a down duvet warm moist air cannot go anywhere so the sleeper gets hotter and hotter.

A sleeping man loses an average of 300 to 500 ml of fluid every night through perspiration. A portion of that fluid evaporates; the rest penetrates into the mattress. If the mattress is not ventilated, the moisture can eventually cause the formation of bacteria and mold. If the mattress is well ventilated moisture drains well and can evaporate outside the mattress. To extend significantly and more importantly the life of your mattress, you will sleep a lot drier and better


It is useful to determine the sleep patterns of athletes, but also to register sleep disorders. If an athlete has to go two or three times to the toile at night t it means that his fluid intake that evening was too high.

Rabobank Cycling Team and  Omega Pharma – QuickStep have understood how important it is for the riders to be able to sleep well during the monster effort of the Tour de France. They were the first teams who made sure their riders therefore slept every night in their own bed. A common complaint in the Tour de France is that the hotels of the cycling teams have lot to be desired. Especially when the Tour seeks sparsely populated areas. Rooms without air conditioning, while it is 35 degrees outside. Also the mattresses are often a source of irritation. It is not uncommon that riders have to spend the night on a quickly placed rickety stretcher. Hence the parody on the rule of Zoetemelk: ` you do not win the Tour de France on a stretcher’.

Rickety stretcher Tour de France                                   One of the bad hotels for the cyclists
One of the hotel rooms for the organization of the Tour de France

A rider does not sleep well on a mattress in which he sinks too deeply. Research has shown that a person turns over forty to sixty times in his sleep every night . Lying on a bad mattress you cannot rest and relax well part because the rider often wakes up.

With a good mattress, the risk to awake frequently is much less. Therefore, the mattresses of the riders of Rabobank and Omega Pharma are brought every day to the next hotel, often to the chagrin of the owner who sees it rightly as a motion of no confidence.

But the riders are very happy and they see the mattresses service as one of the details that can make the difference between winning and losing. Each rider sleeps during the Tour de France on the same quality mattress where he sleeps also at home. Two French students drag the mattresses all for the seventh year from hotel to hotel. They also lay the beds.

After a race or competition adrenaline is still working 4 hours. A race in the evening causes you fall asleep later. Despite the fact that there is a lot of attention in different sports for sleep, in a few years in a few years we will know a lot more about sleep: Knowledge of sleep is the new innovation in sport.

YouTube: The mattress service of Rabobank.