Altitude sleep

Using our altitude rooms

Sleeping at altitude should form part of a coordinated training plan and not be used for recreational purposes. For safety reasons, you would be required to slowly acclimatise to your required altitude level.

We are the first and only hotel in the UK designed specifically for elite athletes with 20 altitude bedrooms.

Live High, Train Low – Benefits of Altitude

Spending time at altitude can provide benefits for athletes as the decreased partial pressure of oxygen stimulates physiological adaptations that may enhance endurance performance.

Theoretically, chronic adaptations such as an increase in haemoglobin mass can aid the capacity of the blood to transport and deliver oxygen to the muscle leading to increased VO2max and improved endurance performance.

Research is inconclusive as to whether the benefits from training/living at altitude transfer to improved sporting performance, however athletes continue to utilise these methods.

How individuals respond to altitude will vary, and this, along with the many variables involved with training/living at altitude is possibly a contributor to the lack of clarity from the research.

The Elite Athlete Centre and Hotel provides a highly economical solution to the live high, train low method, allowing individualisation and optimisation of altitude exposure. This is complemented by our specially designed bedrooms and relaxation lounge that are specifically designed to enhance sleep quality, as well as our nutrition provision which is tailored to enhance iron availability.

When properly planned into an athletes training programme, we’ve observed some fantastic performance gains after sleeping in hypoxic environments. To the point where we regularly travel globally to use such facilities, for numerous weeks at a time. As such, this facility at Loughborough University will be a huge benefit to GB athletes, it is the first of its kind in the UK, and will surpass the capabilities and comfort of all other facilities around the world. It will undoubtedly give us a real performance advantage over the rest of the world.

Ben Holliss, Physiologist English Institute of Sport

Frequently Asked Questions

What is simulated altitude?

At natural altitude, as atmospheric air pressure reduces, the air density gets "thinner" with fewer molecules in the air space. Our altitude bedrooms work on a system that simulates these natural conditions, without altering the air pressure. This is known as "normobaric hypoxia" and is achieved by pumping in air that has been filtered so the oxygen concentration is lower.

How does it work?

All our altitude bedrooms have a constant flow of air, either hypoxic (ie with lower oxygen concentration) or normoxic (sea-level oxygen concentration) and provide an airflow that is individualised for each room.

Each bedroom has two oxygen sensors monitoring the ambient oxygen levels as determined by the control system. The control system is under a pass code which can only be operated from Reception.

What altitude should I stay at?

The research supports a minimum of 3,000m but you should build up to this. By using a simple piece of equipment (a pulse oximeter) which will allow you to measure the oxygen saturation of your blood each morning, we can adjust the altitude to ensure your oxygen saturation is at an appropriate level.

Will sleeping at altitude affect my training?

You will be able to continue training as normal during your stay. Altitude can cause sleep disturbance and so you may experience a small reduction in sleep quality initially, as you adjust to the new environment. We will provide you with information during your stay to help minimise this disturbance, and by monitoring your oxygen saturation levels, the altitude you sleep at can be adjusted to ensure adaptation whilst minimising any negative impacts (e.g. headache, dehydration).

What is the difference between training at altitude and sleeping at altitude?

Training at altitude can provide similar physiological adaptations to sleeping at altitude, however the quality of training can be negatively impacted. This means that whilst you might get physiological adaptations to altitude, you don’t get the same impact of training and, as a result, performance might not benefit.

Sleeping at altitude (or spending at least 12 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period at altitude) provides enough exposure to stimulate the production of new red blood cells, whilst allowing you to maintain training quality at sea level.

During your stay, your training programme can be supplemented by carrying out particular training sessions at altitude to enhance adaptations.

Do I have to be an elite athlete?

You don’t have to be an elite athlete, anyone can benefit from staying at altitude. The physiological adaptations experienced mean that endurance athletes are the most likely to benefit from staying at altitude, but there is now some evidence to show improvements in high intensity exercise, and as such it is possible that athletes from any sport could benefit.

We have a comprehensive health/medical questionnaire that we would require you to complete before booking, which would flag up any conditions/reasons which would mean you may be advised not to stay at altitude.

When should I stay at altitude?

  • Ideally you will be in a good period of training – i.e you have trained consistently for 1 – 3 months without interruption.
  • Hypoxia could delay the recovery from injury, so consider postponing your visit if you are carrying an injury
  • Ideally, you will not be fatigued from a hard training block, or be starting a hard training block during or immediately after your visit.
  • Consider the timing of your visit – competition performance tends to be slightly reduced immediately post-altitude visit (~3 – 10 days post), with best performances generally seen 3 – 5 weeks after.

How long do improvements last after leaving altitude?

The research is mixed on this, however generally speaking benefits persist for approximately 3 – 4 weeks.

Altitude training increases EPO concentrations, could I be banned from competition?

EPO is a naturally occurring hormone that is released by the kidneys in response to altitude, to stimulate the creation of new blood cells. The banned substance is a synthetic drug - it is this drug that is banned.

Should I be taking any supplements?

Low iron levels impact your ability to produce new red blood cells. We recommend having your iron levels assessed before your visit and take supplements if necessary. Before your visit, consider taking probiotics to enhance your immune system.

Will I need to adapt what I eat?

Our chef is on-hand during your stay to help you make appropriate choices to support adaptation. The key things are to ensure you drink enough to avoid dehydration, and to ensure your energy intake is appropriate to cope with the potential increased metabolic demands of staying at altitude. Our food offer in The Kitchen and The Cafe has been developed by sports nutritionists and provides appropriate energy and nutrients for a sports person, as well as focusing on high-iron foods to support your stay at altitude.

Can I train at altitude as well during my stay?

Yes, we have an altitude chamber on campus that can be used for training, and research has shown that including some training sessions at altitude can enhance the response to LHTL (live high, train low). Please contact us for more details on how to access this facility.

Any risks I should be aware of?

Altitude can result in impaired or disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, headaches, nausea, fatigue and dizziness but these symptoms are rare in a healthy individual at altitudes under 3000m. You will be required to complete a health questionnaire as part of the booking process, which will flag up if you are at risk of any of these symptoms, or if it is inappropriate for you to stay at altitude. We can provide a pulse oximeter on request so that you can monitor your oxygen saturation regularly, in particular upon waking each morning. This will allow you and your support team to ensure the altitude is appropriate for you, to encourage adaptations but minimise the risk of negative side effects.

Things to consider when sleeping at altitude

  • Sleep - inadequate sleep can have adverse effects on your training. This is where our specially designed bedrooms and work with sleep experts can add real value.
  • Iron - Low levels of iron will limit your ability to increase haemoglobin. Our menus are specially designed to give you maximum iron intake.
  • Nutrition - An energy deficit whilst pushing hard in training AND sleeping at altitude can have detrimental effects on short term performance. That's why we've worked with expert nutritionists who can work with you on recovery plans.
  • Illness - Depending on the illness, time away from training could prove more beneficial than continuing your training and sleeping at altitude.
  • Training Plan - Sleeping at altitude should be viewed as an addition to your training plan, not to become your training plan. Stress and load should be monitored to ensure recovery time is adequate.