A Calgary researcher is working with top rowing athletes to improve their sleep in hopes of improving their athletic performance.

When it comes to the Olympics, a fraction of a second can mean the difference between metaling or not. That’s why the Canadian Women’s Eight Olympic Rowing Team is getting some help from science.

“It’s all about recovery, so any sleep extension that they can get, these athletes are travelling a lot, so trying to bank sleep before an important competition is very important,” said Amy Bender, Sleep and Athletic Performance Researcher.  “There have been a number of studies that show that a 10-hour time in bed for athletes is very helpful at improving performance and boosting mood.”

Bender had the team wear glasses that blocked blue light, shut off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, take 20 minute afternoon naps and spend at least one extra hour in bed at night. The results so far are amazing.

“At the beginning of the study, only 23% of athletes were satisfied with their sleep quality, and at the end of the study, it jumped up to 77%,” she said.

That’s a big difference for people who travel to compete in sporting events, as jet lag and general exhaustion sap performance. Athletes work hard and need a lot of help to recover, but for average folks, the sleep practices Bender recommends are the same.

“There is a lot of variation in sleep need, so figuring out the right amount that’s right for you is important, and also worrying about the quality of your sleep as well," she said. "Making sure your environment is conducive to sleep, cool, quiet, dark, and then limiting that technology before bedtime.”

The team is using the new-found knowledge to make sure they are well rested before heading to the Olympics in Rio.