TOKYO — It is the travel version of a weight lifting attempt: months of preparation, a few moments to set oneself, a brief burst of all-out effort and, hopefully, a winning result.
The Tokyo Games have been a logistical nightmare for athletes and their coaches from around the world. In a typical year, Olympic teams and athletes show up in the host country weeks in advance to become acclimated. This year, the coronavirus — and Japanese health regulations — created an array of hurdles.
To limit the disruptions, and create what they believe is an environment conducive to Olympic success, the U.S. team set up a training camp at the beginning of July in Honolulu, an eight-hour flight from Japan. There, lifters have been training, but on Tokyo time, which is 19 hours ahead. Jeffrey Durmer, a neurologist who is the team’s sleep expert, created schedules for the athletes that include sleeping late and working out into the night to simulate being in Tokyo.
Durmer, who has also worked as a sleep specialist for N.F.L. teams, said he started the lifters on their sleep protocols even before they arrived in Hawaii from their homes around the country. He tailored each athlete’s schedule based on when he or she was expected to compete.
“Some are sleeping later, eating later, so when they get to Tokyo, they’re ready,” he said.
Durmer has provided the athletes with blackout shades for their rooms, sleep masks, sound machines that produce white noise, chamomile tea and small amounts of melatonin — the so-called hormone of darkness — to make sure they get enough rest. “If you look at sleep, it’s the fundamental that everything else is built on,” he said. “If you didn’t eat, you’d feel bad, and if you didn’t sleep, it’d wreck everything.”
A little extra sleep, he said, “can bolster psychological abilities, so when you step up the bar, you have a positive sense of what you can do, versus being tired.”
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