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Olympics: Sleep survival guide

You might not be able to concentrate too well if you haven't had enough sleep. Photo / Thinkstock
You might not be able to concentrate too well if you haven't had enough sleep. Photo / Thinkstock

Sally Ferguson, working for Central Queensland University at the Appleton Institute in Adelaide, explains how to survive a lack of sleep during the Olympics.

Unless we are taking a fortnight off work, the Olympic Games are going to be hard work for sports fans.

If we are going to survive these two weeks with our jobs, relationships and health intact then we are going to need some sleep.

Research shows that performance is degraded when people get fewer than six hours of sleep over a series of consecutive nights.

If you haven't had any sleep in 20 hours or more, then you may be impaired to the same degree as if you blew over 0.05 on the breathalyzer. This has implications for productivity, efficiency, mood and safety.

So if we want to be awake, functioning and safe during the day, then we do need to be getting some good quality sleep each night.

Tips for surviving your Olympic schedule.

Recovery nights

Find a few nights in the two-week schedule where you can trust the rest of the sporting public to cheer on athletes while you catch up on sleep. Good, long sleeps help us to recover from accumulated sleep debt.

Sleep when you can

If the gold medal game is in the early hours of the morning, then go to bed and set the alarm. If your favourite event or match is on in the evening, switch the TV off after the win and go to bed.

Everything can fall by the wayside when you don't want to miss a "moment".

Loving Earth/Flickr

Don't get caught up in the euphoria of a sport you aren't really interested in just because the TV commentator tells you we'll be right back or you might miss something amazing.

The Olympics is full of "moments", but you can't possibly see them all live. Choose your live events wisely and get sleep when you can.

Sleep well when you can

If you have a TV in the bedroom and keep it on while you are sleeping, chances are your sleep won't be as good as if the room was dark and quiet. If you are sleeping, then sleep.

The radio, newspapers, TV, Twitter, internet, Olympics app for android and iPhone, Facebook sites and YouTube will have all the news about all the results the next day.

It will be almost like you were there.

Naps and coffee

Naps are great for boosting alertness and performance. Use naps during the day if your workplace allows it. Catch a quick 20 minutes at lunch time, or before you drive home, or on the bus to work.

Naps won't keep you going forever, but they are a good tool for the brief duration of competition. And then when you wake from your nap, have a coffee.

Record it

Record it, wake up a little early and watch the race or game before you hear the results. It will be close to live and you can skip all the annoying ads for the amazing and stimulating new shows coming up on (insert appropriate broadcaster here).

Know your limits

If you haven't had much sleep, then acknowledge how you might be affected during the day.

Your reaction times will be blunted, you might not be able to concentrate too well, your hand-eye coordination, balance and decision-making could all be impaired.

Understand the risks of inadequate sleep.

With a good game plan, aimed at getting quality sleep when you can, you should be able to survive the Games and see the big moments.

Editor's Note: Sally Ferguson is the Associate Research Professor at Central Queensland University. She writes for The Conversation.

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