I like to get a lot of sleep. Since I train almost every day, it's never very difficult for me to fall asleep early.
I think that sleep and rest are overlooked by a lot of cyclists. Actually, I think it’s overlooked by a lot of people in general. I used to stay up late, wasting time on the internet or watching tv. I’d sleep with my TV on, or with a movie. I’d say 6 hours of sleep per night was about average for me back then.
I can’t prove it, but I think that the lack of sleep back then made me less effective at everything I did. Athletically, I didn’t see the same progress that I see now. You’d think that 19 year old me would respond better to training than 30 year old me; but I don’t think I did. I wasn’t as mentally focused. I remember constantly dosing off in air force classes. My comprehension of what I was taught didn’t seem as high as it is now. My diet now isn’t all that much different than it was then. The biggest thing I think changed was my extra sleep.
It’s rare that I don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep in a night. I’m usually out cold by 10:30 and wake up between 6:30 and 7:00. With over 8 hours of sleep, I feel like my body recovers quickly from workouts. Mentally, I’m much more sharp. That’s really important in bike racing. You have to be able to react quickly to the people around you. Overall, I feel like I function better when I consistently get lots of sleep.
Years ago, I remember a clinic Adam Myerson gave here in OKC. One of the big things I took away was about rest. He explained how the workout you did in and of itself did not make you faster. In fact, that workout made you slower. By the end of that workout, you are fatigued and in that moment you aren’t as strong as you were at the beginning of the workout. It’s the combination of work and rest together that make you stronger. If either side is out of balance, you won’t reach your optimal result. If you train too hard and rest too little, that’s bad. If you train too little and rest too much, that’s also bad.
For me, 8 or 9 hours of sleep every night seems like the right balance. It’s not like I’d be doing anything productive past 10:00 anyway, especially in the winter time. I would just be wasting time, starring at a screen (phone, tv, etc). Sleep is the much more productive choice.