Lindsey Vonn Gets Candid about a 10-Year Health Struggle: “The Stress Made It Even Harder”
In an exclusive interview with The Healthy @Reader's Digest, the four-time skiing World Champion reveals she "tried everything" until she found the solution. (Hint: it involves a beloved TV & ice cream combo!)
In the months leading up to the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics, US Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn found herself lying awake each night, consumed with anxiety. Sure, training for the Olympics would make anyone nervous. But Vonn was already a seasoned vet with three winter Olympics and four World Championships under her belt. So what was so stressful?
On February 5, 2013, Vonn took a terrible crash during the World Championships in Austria and was airlifted to a hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee, with a tibial plateau fracture (board-certified orthopedic surgeon Matthew Varacallo, MD translates this as an aggressive combination of an ACL tear, an MCL tear, a cartilage injury and joint damage)—which would severely impact her ability to race again. Vonn needed immediate surgery…but she assured her coaches and fans that she would be ready for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which were less than a year away.
That pressure, combined with the pain and recovery process, sent Lindsey Vonn downhill into a cycle of insomnia.
Lindsey Vonn’s struggles with insomnia
“I was in pain after the surgery which made it hard to sleep, but I knew I needed sleep to recover—and I had to recover to be ready for the Olympics. That stress made it even harder to sleep,” says Vonn, now 38. “It was the most immense pressure.”
While a subsequent injury ended up derailing her chance to compete in Sochi, she did eventually return to her sport—earning three more World Championship medals and another Olympic medal before retiring in 2019.
But besides medals, there was another souvenir Lindsey Vonn kept from her racing days: insomnia.
“I thought my insomnia would get better after I retired and no longer had the pressure of racing, but it actually got worse,” she says. Vonn believes no longer having the physical outlet of skiing, combined with the increased mental load of her new career as a businesswoman and philanthropist, were to blame.
At night, she’d get into bed and lie awake ruminating over business deals she was managing, investments she was making, ideas for new ventures, and even organizing her home. “I’m kind of a really intense organizer, so I’d lay in bed going through my many checklists,” she says. “It didn’t help that my three dogs, one of whom snores terribly, always wanted to get in bed with me. I’d wake up exhausted and groggy.”
Lindsey Vonn’s trick to beating insomnia
Over the years, Lindsey Vonn consulted multiple doctors and tried everything to fall asleep and stay asleep. “Teas, sleep supplements, changes to my diet, bedtimes, not using my phone or watching TV before bed, over-the-counter and prescription sleep medicines—you name it, I tried it,” she says. “And nothing worked.”
Finally in June of 2022, Vonn opened up to her doctor about how much the insomnia was affecting her life…including negatively impacting her mental health. She says the lack of sleep was causing her anxiety to skyrocket, which only worsened the insomnia.
Vonn’s doctor prescribed Quviviq, a nightly treatment for insomnia. “It was a game changer, it has helped me so much,” she says of her six months on the medication. “I’m finally getting real sleep. For the first time in years, I wake up and feel like myself again—energized and happy.”
Now bedtime is a fun, relaxing time of day for her. Sometimes she winds down by reading a book (Grit by Angela Duckworth is her favorite!) or listening to music. But her favorite bedtime routine?
“Law & Order plus Ben & Jerry’s is the best way for me to shut off the world,” she laughs. (Sounds perfect to us, too!)
The one thing she still hasn’t managed to fix is keeping her dogs off her bed, including the snoring pup, but, she says, it no longer bothers her. “I sleep right through it!” she says. “And I can’t even tell you how great it feels to say that.”
[Editor’s note: a representative for Quviviq adds that this experience is Vonn’s own, and like all prescription medications, there are benefits and risks. It’s important to talk to your doctor to see what is right for you.]
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