French-born Fabrice Gautier knows sports both on and off the court. As a former high-level basketball player turned licensed physical therapist and osteopath, he’s worked with France’s national basketball team, with Olympians, with the NHL—and he’s currently a private consultant for players in the NBA. As someone who’s played basketball, rugby, and spent time in the military, he knows the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle firsthand.
Needless to say, he’s a font of useful knowledge when it comes to staying healthy. We asked him some of our most pressing questions about sleep and recovery, and he shared plenty of wisdom.
Focus on quality of sleep vs. length
For work, Fabrice travels to see his clients all over the US, which means that he’s often taking a red eye flight or fighting off jet lag. Because of this, he says sleep is just as important to him as the food and drink he consumes. If he meets his own sleep needs, he finds that his energy and mood are better, his weight doesn’t fluctuate, his workouts are solid, and his work with patients benefits.
That being said, Fabrice isn’t caught up on the whole eight-hours-of-sleep thing that so many of us obsess over. He knows his own needs. “I don’t personally need eight hours of sleep,” he says, “but I know that if I don’t at least get one full cycle of deep sleep it is so much harder to function for me. That is why I am more focused on the quality of the sleep than the length.”
Bad sleep can lead to risky workouts
When it comes to gym time after a bad night’s sleep, Fabrice warns that you might feel a little...off. “I believe the quality of sleep really affects the central nervous system more than anything else,” he says, “so it will affect your concentration, the quality, intensity, and the precision of your neuromuscular response.”
In other words, skimping on sleep and then hitting the gym is risky business. With your central nervous system out of whack, you risk making a wrong move here and a misstep there. Fabrice says that your overall performance at the gym could be compromised, “with more risk of doing an inefficient workout or worse risk of injury.”
Take your pre-sleep warm-down seriously
We asked Fabrice if he sees athletes making the same mistakes over and over again at bedtime, and he was ready with his response. “I believe that the number one thing they get wrong is the preparation,” he says. “Not treating it as a sacred routine and not preparing adequately for it. When you are going to play or practice, you warm up, you do things in a certain order. I believe it is the same thing for sleep. I strongly believe that you need to warm down towards sleep.”
How to do a pre-sleep warm-down? “You cannot expect to have a great night’s sleep if you just turn off your phone, TV, computer, or video games right before going to bed,” he says. “The purpose of sleep is to shut down the brain so it can recover from its heavy day. To do this, all visual and sound stimuli should be lessened, and you should pay attention to the food you ingest, the time you ingest it, what you wear, your pillow, and of course the quality of your bed—you are going to spend eight hours a day in it, so you better invest well and find one that fits you.”
Obsess over recovery, not squat form
During his years of working with professional athletes, Fabrice has noticed more and more athletes investing in recovery. “Surprisingly enough,” he says, “they are the great ones that win and last.”
His own tips for recovery are plentiful. “I am OCD with my sleep, and even more when I am traveling,” he says. “From my dinner and hydration—not too close to bedtime—to the bed sheets, my night mask, ear plugs, phone away, pillows, etc. Believe it or not, but my sleep prep actually starts in the afternoon at my office, I always dedicate 30 minutes to a power nap. It really allows me to pre-shutdown my central nervous system.”
Fabrice won’t take sleeping pills to boost his sleep—he opts for more natural remedies. “I swear by the power of blackstrap molasses, on the advice of my nutritionist,” he says. “It’s full of magnesium, calcium, and vitamin B6, which boost serotonin levels in the brain. One spoonful helps with sleep and fuels your body the next day when you train. That’s my natural sleeping pill.”
Want more recovery? At MOLECULE, we’re passionate about creating sleep products to help your body recover overnight and feel amazing in the morning. As Fabrice points out, your mattress is an important investment—so check out our MOLECULE mattresses, which ensure optimal temperature regulation during sleep to create a better atmosphere for nighttime recovery.