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How sleep affects athletic performance

importance of sleep

Sleep will always be an important factor in your everyday routine, especially if you’re someone that has high levels of activity during the day. Strenuous activity puts added stress to the body which then repairs itself during sleep. This is where the importance of getting enough sleep comes into play.

How much sleep you need depends on your genetics and the type of activity you participate in but a minimum of 8 to 10 hours is recommended for optimal recovery of the muscles and the nervous system.

Consequences of sleep deprivation

During the REM phase, processes important to muscle recovery and performance begin to happen. This is the time when energy and memory are being restored and repaired. If this phase is interrupted or cut short the brain doesn’t have enough time to finish this process and in turn sacrifices athletic performance.

Sleep deprivation will result in decreased accuracy, poor form, declined results in performance and bad mood. It also increases the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and slows down recovery right after physical activity.

Getting enough sleep benefits athletes in several ways:

  • Increased speedathletes that get an extra 2 hours of sleep at night have an increase in speed and accuracy of 9%. Sufficient amount of sleep increases reaction time and reflexes making you quicker, precise and more alert. A single night of no sleep is enough to reduce athletic performance by 300% and recovery will take up to several days. Surprisingly low levels of fatigue can impair reaction time as much as being drunk would.
  • Increased intensity – Getting at least 9 hours of sleep at night increases performance results in high intensity workouts like weight lifting, high intensity interval training, cycling and running.
  • Mental strength – Getting enough sleep gives the mind a break after it has finished repairing the body. This results in higher alertness and quicker reflexes
  • Coordination – As mentioned before REM state is the most important part of sleep, it’s the point where memories are being restored and the nervous system repaired. During this time the brain is memorizing new skills and consolidating memories connected to motor skills. This means that getting enough sleep will enable you to repeat the same actions, learn them better and achieve better results
  • Reduced injury rates – Sleeping less than 6 hours will greatly increase the risks of serious athletic injury. This is because fatigue severely affects reaction time and a tired athlete is slower to react to an obstacles or a potential hit on the court. By getting enough sleep you’re avoiding risk of any future injury caused by poor cognitive performance.
  • General health – Fatigue makes you more susceptible to illness by lowering the immune system and this is because shorter periods of rest don’t provide the body with enough time to repair and regenerate cells from the effects of daily activities and sport. Getting up to 10 hours of sleep results in greater health overall which means you will rarely have periods of down time brought on by sickness.

sleep deprivation

A factor we rarely think about – the quality of your bed

It is impossible to expect a good night’s rest when the bed that you’re sleeping on is giving you more grief than comfort. A good mattress is just as important as the amount of sleep you’re getting and depending on your preference there a several types of mattresses that you can choose from.

  • Innerspring mattresses are the most commonly used. Made with several layers of metal coils which provide bounce and even pressure point relief. A good mattress will have a higher metal coil count for better support. It’s a reliable go to as it fit’s most people’s needs in firmness and comfort.
  • Memory foam mattress offer great support and are usually recommended for people suffering from bad lower back pain. Memory foam is heat sensitive, it will contour and mold to your body relieving pressure points and give your body even support. Since it traps heat it’s a good mattress to go for if you’re an athlete since heat is known to increase blood circulation and promote relaxation and muscle recovery.
  • Latex foam mattresses offer great support and a relaxing, cooling effect.
    They’re almost identical in every aspect to the memory foam mattresses providing the same amount of support and pressure point relief minus the heat.
  • Air mattresses provide just as much support as a traditional innerspring mattress but with added comfort. They vary in quality and size but in general it isn’t hard to find a good quality one for a lower price. The best airbeds are fully adaptable, meaning you can adjust firmness to your liking and readjust it lost air. You can read more on that over at TheSleepStudies.com

To sum it up

Getting enough sleep is the most important factor in maintaining optimal health and the key to success of any athlete.

By getting enough sleep you’re making sure that your body is ready for action and on top of its peak performance.