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Sleep, the Key to Recovery

By Will Murray | Oct. 07, 2020, 10 a.m. (ET)

You gain fitness during your recovery from the workouts that provide the stress that incites gains. That makes recovery vital to your training program – and the most effective form of recovery is good sleep.


You might find that you are able to get to sleep just fine, but wake up during the night and have trouble returning to sleep. Here are five ways to make sure that you can return to sleep, and get the sleep that will promote your recovery. Try them all to find your favorite.


1.     Keep a paper and pencil next to your bed. When you wake up in the night and find that your mind is racing, jot down what you want to remember when you wake up, then ask your racing mind if it’s okay to take this up again in the morning.

2.     Roll your eyes up into the back of your head and hold them there as hard as you can for as long as you can. This will knock you out without even getting drowsy. You will just wake up hours later and wonder what happened. (I know it sounds kooky but it will work if you will try it).

3.     Set a routine for going to bed and stick with it. Your routine includes staying away from computer and device screens right before you go to bed.

4.     If you are awake in the night because you are trying to work out some issue, plan or problem, and you can’t put it off until the morning, then get up and deal with it. Sometimes 30 or 45-minutes of concerted effort on the thing that keeps you awake can be very productive. There is an added benefit to working this way: the hypnogogic state (when you are in the twilight between asleep and awake) can be a very productive time, with greater access to your unconscious. Alexander Graham Bell is said to have laid on a couch in his lab, holding a metal ball in his hand—when he started to drift off, the ball would fall and wake him up and keep him in the twilight. Figure it out, write it down, congratulate yourself for your good work and return to bed.

5.     Use imagery. Start with your feet, seeing and feeling how relaxed you let them become, then move to your ankle and on up toward your head, concentrating on how relaxed and drowsy these parts feel. It’s unlikely that you will get very far up your legs before you drop off to sleep.


Sleep is an important component of your recovery program. Using these techniques, you can make the best use of sleep to enhance your recovery and thereby realize your fitness gains. Nighty night.

Will Murray

Will Murray is a USAT coach and the mental skills coach for  He is co-author with Craig Howie of The Four Pillars of Triathlon, Vital Mental Conditioning for Endurance Athletes and has a specialty in eliminating trauma.