The Best Performance Enhancer? “Sleep,” says Two-Time Olympic Champion Susan Francia

Growing up, Susan Francia always knew that she wanted to be an athlete. The problem was that, as a six foot two high school freshman, she lacked physical coordination. Despite being a member of her high school's softball and track and field teams, she rode a lot of benches. In college, though, she discovered rowing—and immediately fell in love with the sport. Even better, her talent was quickly recognized. “My coach said, ‘You can go to the Olympics,’” Francia recalls. “I said, ‘Ok, that’s what I really want to do.’

To get there, though, Susan knew she would have to dedicate her life to rowing. Upon graduating from college, she passed up on multiple job offers in order to pursue her dream. During this time Susan discovered the importance not only of sticking to a disciplined trained regimen and a healthy diet—but of getting high quality sleep. “Sleep is this thing that I feel like we almost take for granted,” she observes, “but it is actually so critical in not just my sport, but in daily function.”

Susan's hard work (and all that quality snoozing) paid off when she helped lead the US Olympic Rowing team to a gold medal in 2008 in Beijing. After the Games, though, the rigors of her training began to catch up with her, and Susan battled a herniated disc and chronic rib injuries. She recalls, “I went from being this elite athlete at the top of my game to, I can’t even function, I can’t pick up a plate from a table.” Despite her struggles, Susan was able to recover enough to help lead the Olympic team to a gold medal again in 2012, but after her second Olympic run, her body was spent—and she was forced to retire from rowing. She spent the years after London constantly battling injuries, often struggling just to get out of bed in the morning. “I was at my wits end,” she says. “I was spending all this money on acupuncture and physical therapy.”

But then Susan realized that her nagging injuries were a consequence of something seemingly minor, but hugely affecting: she was sleeping on a bad mattress that did not give her spine proper support. So Susan purchased a Molecule mattress, which was designed to help athletes’ bodies recover overnight. Her mattress now provides her with the support her body needs to feel healed and reinvigorated the next day. Seemingly overnight, Susan's pain went away.

Today, she has resumed the active lifestyle that she loves. She’s a coach at UCSD and MBA student at UCLA. She rows or runs almost every day, thanks to the support given to her body by her Molecule mattress. And what is Susan's advice for aspiring Olympians? “Get a new bed, that is number one! The best legal performance enhancer is sleep.”