Athletics

Rest key as athletes struggle to adjust circadian rhythms to new

BY PAUL A REID
Observer writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 09, 2018

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TAMPERE, Finland — Before the Jamaican athletes can go up against the best of their peers in the IAAF World Under-20 Championships starting tomorrow at Tampere Stadium, they must first recover from the rigours of travelling more than 24 hours and through eight time zones to get to Finland.

The Jamaicans, who travelled in three groups, left Jamaica on Thursday, travelling through Miami and London to Helsinki before taking a two-hour bus ride to Tampere.

Dr Lincoln Cox, the team physician, told Jamaican journalists yesterday there was little they could do except wait a few days before the effects wore off and the athletes got back into their usual sleep patterns.

“The truth about the body is there is really nothing that you can do with the circadian rhythm; you just have to get them [to] rest and in a few days they should be back to normal with sufficient rest,” he said.

The circadian rhythm, Dr Cox explained, was “the rhythm in the body where the hormone serotonin that controls night and day and sleep and wake cycles. When you travel through time zones it disturbs that rhythm so their usual rest and wake cycles have been disturbed and so it takes them a little while to get used to going to bed at a certain time and waking up and going to training and recovery according to physiology,” he explained. “And it takes two to three days for this to happen and, pretty much, even for us adults sometimes we don't even know what day it is at times.”

The usually long days of the Scandinavian summer does not help either, Dr Cox said, “given we are in this region where we get about 21 hours of daylight each day. at times it is even more difficult to control but we tell the athletes to note the time of the day and go to bed on time, close the curtains to block out the sun and daylight and wake up at their usual hours and in two to three days it should be okay.”

Dr Cox said the first two days have been the worst. “The athletes have not been handling it in the first 24 to 48 hours or so, and given that they are spread out all over the team hotel, at times it is not easy to get them to bed, but for the most parts they know they have work to do and they have a mission here and they have been complying.

“Normally we can tell when they come down for breakfast how they have been sleeping but by (Monday) we will have a better idea of how well they are coping,” Dr Cox also said.

It might not be so easy for those who are still to arrive as they won't have the days to rest. Dr Cox said, however, “there is not much they can do; they might be in a not so advantageous situation if their events are close to the times they will get here, as they won't have time to rest properly and give an optimum performance.”

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