Sleep for Performance
Written by Andy Wong
Are you an athlete, regular gym goer or just looking to improve your health and fitness? If so, chances are you have put a lot of time and effort into your training program to get results. Ideally, you may also be looking at how frequently you train, try to manipulate variables such as the volume and intensity to keep progressing, and incorporate different types of exercise within your routine. On top of this, you may also be trying to keep a good and healthy diet to give your body enough fuel and nutrition.
If you cover all this, it sounds like you’re on the right track. But while these form a vital part of a good program, they are not the whole picture. One particular area we tend to neglect is Sleep.
Sleep is the body’s rest cycle and can generally be split into two phases. The initial phase of sleep, also known as Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep is where bodily functions such as heart rate and blood pressure start to slow down. At this time, a large number of hormones such as growth hormone are secreted, and the body goes through processes of restoration and repair.
Next we have deep sleep, also known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which accounts for roughly 20-25% of our total sleep duration. During this time important processes take place such as memory consolidation and learning of new or complex techniques and motor skills.
Generally speaking, without sleep, we simply could not function properly. Unfortunately with the increasing demands of our general busy lifestyles, sleep is one of the first things we tend to sacrifice.
HOW POOR SLEEP CAN AFFECT YOU
Research shows that even small amounts of sleep deprivation can take a toll on our health, mood, cognitive capacity and productivity. So, regardless if you’re a worker going through your usual day, or an athlete looking to get the best out of your training, sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on function.
Harmful effects similar to normal ageing have been identified in sleep deprived individuals, meaning that disruptions to sleep may increase the severity of age-related chronic disorders. The immune system can also be somewhat compromised with sleep deprivation, causing negative effects on health, making us more susceptible to illness. Disrupted sleep can also have negative impacts on cognitive functions including reaction time, alertness, mood, and motivation.
EXERCISE & SPORT PERFORMANCE
Sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality can have significant effects on exercise performance the following day. Ratings of perceived exertion seems to be greatly influenced, such that performing the same exercise at the same intensity can seem harder on a sleep deprived day compared to a day you have had an adequate amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation can also cause increased levels of fatigue, facilitate over training syndrome, increase tension, and increase injury rates. Taking all these factors into account, the effects of long term sleep deprivation can accumulative and have an even greater negative effect.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
As sleep is such a vital process, we want to optimise it as best we can. The optimal amount of sleep that each individual requires can vary, with most people typically needing around seven to eight hours per day. Going to sleep when you get tired in the evening and waking up naturally without any alarms and distractions can be a good test for how much sleep you need.
To help promote sleep, here are some strategies you can try that are based on the most current research:
- Create a cool and dark sleeping environment
- Position yourself into a comfortable sleeping posture that supports muscle relaxation
- Avoid use of electronics in the bedroom
- Limit caffeine intake in the latter half of the day
- Structure a routine of sleeping and waking at consistent times
- Dietary intake of carbohydrates and protein, along with micronutrients of nitrate and melatonin, can facilitate sleep
Where sleep deprivation is unavoidable, naps have been shown to offer compensation for sleep. To experience the full benefit however, you must be accustomed to taking naps
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
We tend to live busy lifestyles and try to fit so much into each day, but it is important not to sacrifice sleep. Sleep is a vital process, and when deprived of it, it can affect our recovery, general day-to-day function, our immune system and exercise performance. Therefore, just like a regular exercise routine, a consistent regime of adequate sleep can help you get the most out of your day and stay on top of your game.
Sydney West Sports Medicine are a multi disciplinary practice offering a range of services that help meet your goals. For an appointment call 98515959.