Here’s what a lack of sleep does to your cycling performance - and how to improve the quality of yours

Having struggled with sleep as an aspiring pro, Jack Billyard is determined to put the question to bed

Image shows a rider looking at their watch to see how much sleep it reckons they need to recover.
(Image credit: Getty Images / Justin Paget)

Improving your sleep could provide the single biggest boost to your cycling performance it’s possible to make by legal means. Though it was arguably made famous as a “marginal gain” when Team Sky (now Ineos Grenadiers) started carting their own mattresses with them at the Tour de France, sleep may in fact be a maximal gain – it really is that fundamental in building fitness and maintaining health. So how can you make sure you’re getting the optimum dose of the most potent legal performance enhancer known to cycling humanity?

First off, it’s important to acknowledge that no one chooses to sleep poorly. But we all know that cyclists chase after every available gain – often at great expense – and what is the point of spending hundreds of pounds on lightweight wheels or a more aero helmet if a crucial (and free) part of your daily life is holding you back? No matter how much you spend on components, you won’t compensate for a chronic lack of sleep. What’s more, given the squeeze on everyone’s finances recently, many of us are putting on hold the best bike upgrades – all the more reason to make sure our sleep is as good as it can possibly be. 

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