Cagers are crazy—we all know it. You could paint your bike yellow and glue giant bird feathers and disco balls to it, and they still wouldn’t see you. If you want to survive to ride another day, you must ride smart and stay on top of your game. And because you spend about a third of your life on your bed, you have to sleep smart too. The connection between sleep deprivation and motorcycle accidents is clear. Avoid hitting the pavement just by hitting your mattress. Here are a few ways you’ll ride better after some quality sleep.
1. Handle Your Bike Better
Studies have concluded that a night of good sleep greatly improves motor control—which can drastically impact your ability to handle your bike. It is important though, that you sleep well.
To reap the benefits that sleep creates for your motor control, you must enter stage 2 non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, a deep sleep stage. As you are well aware, controlling a street bike that’s anywhere from 600 to 1,000 pounds takes some serious guts, and even more coordination, so quality sleep can’t be overlooked.
2. Make Decisions Quicker
Is it smart to drink right before getting on your motorcycle? Probably not. But when you miss a night of sleep, “your ability to do critical thinking takes a massive hit—just as with alcohol, you’re knocking out the frontal-cortex functions,” according to associate professor of psychiatry Robert Stickgold, a cognitive neuroscientist who specializes in sleep research. When that semi suddenly decides to start merging into you, that quick decision-making ability becomes a life-and-death matter.
3. Ride Longer
You don’t have time to be sick—good riding weather won’t wait. But a lack of sleep can cause some serious health issues. High blood pressure, obesity and even diabetes have been directly linked to sleep deprivation. “Sleep regulates so many critical functions in the body, like hormones, metabolism and organ function, that the connection is clear—if you want to enjoy a healthy life, getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night is a step in the right direction,” says health and wellness consultant Sarah Brown with Sleep Train.
4. Move Faster
According to studies, sleep deprivation can have a very significant effect on performance and reaction time. It is true for athletes and especially for motorcyclists.
Any experienced driver will testify to how quickly you must be able to react on the road—when a motorist starts to move into your lane, when a car in front of you brakes unexpectedly or when an animal suddenly decides to cross the road in your direct path. Reaction time is critical. Getting the right amount of sleep at night assures you that you’ll be able to react quickly.
5. Learn the Ropes Quicker
Sleep is a crucial way to consolidate memories from the previous day. If you are just newly learning how to handle your bike, “sleeping on it” is the best thing you can do to cement that knowledge in your brain!
Scientists have noted that during slow wave sleep, the brain appears to replay all the information and skills it has learned, and place them into long-term storage. This means that if you want to learn quickly, getting good sleep is the best way to do it.
Everyone knows riding a motorcycle can be dangerous—it’s part of the thrill, right? But if you want to live to ride another day, it is clear that getting good sleep is one of the best things you can do. So how do you achieve the recommended seven to nine hours a night?
How to Get the Recommended Amount of Sleep: Pro Tips from an Expert
- A consistent bedtime routine is the number one way to make sure you get good sleep. You may like to fly through life by the seat of your pants, but winding down slowly at night, following the same steps every time, will prepare your body for a deep sleep.
- Avoid using any electronic devices right before bed. That blue light emanating from them will throw off your sleep/wake cycle and make it more difficult to fall asleep when you want to.
- If you wake easily to outside noises, consider playing white noise while you sleep, or even running a fan, which is essentially the same thing. As you already know, sounds like the humming of your bike will drown out any outside noise.
- Only drink alcohol with dinner. You may like to party hard, but try not to do it the night before a big ride. When you drink a lot right before you go to bed, you might fall asleep quickly, but you are more likely to have disrupted sleep that is far less restorative.
- Everyone knows caffeine will keep you awake. But when do you stop for the day so that you can go to sleep? Most experts suggest you stop consuming caffeine in the early afternoon, or approximately eight hours before you want to sleep.
- Make sure your mattress is decent. You should love your bed as much as you love your bike. If you wake up in pain in the morning, or throughout the night, chances are your bed is at fault. Most experts suggest replacing your mattress every eight to ten years.
It’s clear if you’re a smart rider, you value your sleep. You’re controlling thousands of pounds of metal, going at high speeds or through small towns—you need to stay at the top of your game. Your motor coordination, critical thinking, overall health, ability to react and learning curve are all sharpened and made better by getting the sleep you need.
Hopefully with the help of these pro tips, you’ll have many, many years of riding ahead of you.
About Hilary Thompson
Hilary Thompson is a health and wellness consultant and journalist based in Utah. Her years of expertise in the field have led her to write for websites like Today and SafeWise, and she's been featured in publications like Reader's Digest and Best Life. A former insomniac, she specializes in senior health, family health and sleep disorders. The wife of a weekend rider, she also takes a special interest in motorcycle safety.