Skiing Legend Lindsey Vonn Has Long Struggled With Sleep—Here’s Her Easy-To-Copy Routine That Works

Photo: Courtesy of Idorsia/W+G Creative
If you watched the Winter Olympics between 2002 and 2018, you likely know Lindsey Vonn as the skier you couldn’t bear to miss on the slopes. At that time, she was practically zooming on snow, winning three Olympic medals, including the first gold ever for downhill skiing for a woman from team USA. These days, she’s still go-go-going, running a sportswear line and a foundation that supports underserved girls. All of that said, the World Champion skier, entrepreneur, and dog mom could really use a good night’s sleep, in my humble opinion. But for a long time, that shut-eye hasn’t come easily for her.

Recently, you may have caught Vonn in TV commercials for QUVIVIQ, a prescription medicine for adults who have trouble falling or staying asleep. She’s been taking it daily (or rather, nightly) for about a year. But her trouble with sleep started a decade ago, following her first surgery in 2013 for a torn ACL caused by a ski accident during that year’s World Cup.

Managing the pain, coupled with the pressures of getting back to skiing as soon as possible and performing well on the slopes, created the perfect storm for sleep issues. And Vonn, who’d never struggled with sleep in the past, found that she didn’t have the tools to manage her restlessness. “When I was younger, I used to have no problems sleeping, so I didn't really pay attention [to my habits around sleep],” says Vonn, with whom I spoke in relation to her partnership with QUVIVIQ. “I could watch TV or be on a train and fall asleep no problem.”

So when the insomnia hit, she was at a loss for how to resolve it. The usual suspects, like meditation and yoga, didn’t appeal to her (more on that below). And the more time that passed without her being able to get good sleep, the more anxious she became about it, which just made it progressively more difficult for her to doze off.

“I didn't have the physical exhaustion anymore, and I just couldn't turn my mind off, so [my sleep struggles] became a big problem.” —Lindsey Vonn, World Champion skier

Returning to skiing in the years following that first surgery (and the ones that came after) would help a little. But in 2019, when Vonn retired from professional skiing, her sleep issues snowballed. “I didn't have the physical exhaustion anymore, and I just couldn't turn my mind off, so it became a big problem,” she says, adding that the “5,000 emails” she’d find in her inbox every evening certainly wasn’t helping. “I realized I had to address it and go to a doctor.”

While taking prescription QUVIVIQ soon became a key part of her sleep solution, Vonn also shifted her day and night routines to make sleep easier to come by. Below, she shares how she prepares for a full night of rest using a habit that was long a part of her lifestyle as a pro athlete.

How Lindsey Vonn optimizes her days and nights for good sleep

During the daytime: high-intensity workouts

After Vonn’s initial injury left her sidelined and unable to sleep, it was clear to her that her skiing had played a role in her ability to get good shut-eye. Since retiring, she’s aimed to replicate some of the physical exertion of skiing with her workouts.

“I still work out hard,” says Vonn, who will go to the gym four days a week, sometimes more, when she’s at home (which shifts between Utah, California, and Florida). She spends her gym time cycling indoors and focuses on leg exercises at least three times per week to maintain her leg strength. “It’s not the same as being on the mountain for six hours, with a race—that's just a whole other level of exhaustion,” she says, “but for me, the gym acts as a form of meditation.”

“I feel like my brain is just overwhelmed when I don't have the opportunity to work out.” —Vonn

Indeed, she prefers exercise to clear her mind over actual meditation. “I'm not good at sitting still,” she says. “For me, exercising is the only time when I’m really present, and I definitely feel like my brain is just overwhelmed when I don't have the opportunity to work out.”

In the evening: winding down and journaling

Vonn carves out time each night to shift into a calmer state of being before bed. “When I’m home, I watch TV while I'm having dinner, and then I take the dogs out,” she says. “This routine helps me start to shut my mind off.”

From there, Vonn’s nighttime ritual includes taking her QUVIVIQ, washing her face, doing her skin-care routine, and journaling for several minutes to reflect on her day. In fact, she cites journaling as important to both maintaining her mental health and getting good sleep. Ideally, she says, she’ll wrap this up around 10 or 10:30 p.m. and then get into bed.

In crafting this optimal nighttime ritual over time, Vonn has also learned to avoid certain things in the evenings—namely, watching TV in bed (which can lead your brain to associate your bed with alertness, rather than sleep) and writing a to-do list for the next day. “I'm so goal-oriented that once I start thinking about all the things I need to do tomorrow, it is really bad [for my ability to fall asleep]… so, no more of that.”

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