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Bike Shorts: Cyclist Tips for Curing Insomnia

You’ve covered the clock. You tried counting sheep. You even turned on the noise machine. Nothing is working, and the more anxious you get, the less likely it seems you’ll get even a few sweet hours of rest.

We’ve all known the frustration of a long, restless night of trying — and failing — to get to sleep. The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care reports that between 10% and 30% of adults deal with symptoms of insomnia, and some studies have shown it’s closer to half. During the long slog of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors have noted that insomnia may even be affecting more people.

Cyclists struggle with insomnia as much as anyone. They are human, after all, even if they sometimes seem to have superpowers. But they do have one unique way to cure insomnia. If you’re a cyclist, the secret lies in your enjoyment of cycling. You may wonder what on earth that has to do with getting a good night’s sleep. We turned to our trusted friend and cycling coach, Darryl MacKenzie, for cyclist tips for curing insomnia.

The Facts About Insomnia

Before we get to how cycling can aid your sleep, let’s take a moment to talk about what insomnia is.

Sleepless nights can come and go, and they may affect everyone at some point in their lives. Factors causing insomnia can include anything from stress and anxiety to medications and sleep disorders. Sometimes it’s a sign of a more serious condition, but oftentimes it’s simply sparked by something going on in your life.

For the cyclist, it can be any of these reasons. It can even happen on the night before a big ride when you’re excited about riding and anxious about getting enough rest.

Whatever the reason, when insomnia creeps in, it can feel like a unique form of torture. You’ve probably tried a few tactics in desperate attempts to get yourself to sleep on a restless night. But, as a cyclist, you may have a unique one up your sleeve that you didn’t even know about. 

A Cyclist’s Trick for Getting to Sleep

So, what’s this unique cyclist tip for curing insomnia? Let’s take a look.

You may have heard some advice for curing insomnia before that guides you to focus on pleasant thoughts. This can be an effective method, but it’s also vague and unfocused. For Coach Darryl, the trick lies in finding something enjoyable that your mind can focus on for an extended period, long enough to distract you to sleep.

As a cyclist, you have just the thing: your favorite ride. To cure your insomnia, think about your favorite ride and let the whole thing play out in your mind. Think through the details, from your morning preparations to your drive to the starting point and on through every turn, climb, sight and sound of the ride. 

“I rarely get more than 20 minutes into this before I’m asleep,” Darryl says. Focusing on something he enjoys — and that has a natural linear progression he can anticipate — provides the perfect distraction. It keeps his mind off sleeping long enough to let him relax and doze off.

Choosing the Right Scene

For this to work, Coach Darryl emphasizes that you have to choose the right route. You need to know it like the back of your hand and be able to envision every moment. It should be a ride you have done so many times that you can imagine each stage without concentrating too hard.

“I try to remember each milestone, each item that I see along the route,” he says. “And then I savor and enjoy each one of the sights and sounds.”

Darryl also recommends not envisioning a high-adrenaline ride that gets you worked up. The idea is to enjoy it and counteract the anxiety you’re feeling, whether it’s about your job, a relationship, an upcoming event or simply getting to sleep. Give your mind something relaxing — something it can get lost in for a bit.

We’ve said before that cycling has many health benefits. But even we didn’t know it could help you cure insomnia. How’s that for a bonus?


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels