In modern society today with late night TV shows, social media, the various forms of handheld technology, the hustle and bustle of your own social life, study and/or work obligations and of course sporting commitments, sleep for the modern athlete is usually unprecedented, and typically not even considered as the one of the biggest pieces of the recovery puzzle.
With science today and the constant revision of the literature there is always another form of recovery modality, however nothing is more powerful than good old sleep.
If we are to use the of the Ferrari sports car as the analogy it is rather simple. If we were to say your nutrition is the premium fuel and strength and conditioning plus sporting skills the regular servicing. This would give us two out of three pieces to the high performance puzzle and sure, these are two large pieces of the puzzle, however
Does that make the puzzle complete? And contrary to that would you keep your high performance sports car running non-stop? If so, when does it get to rest and restore?
In stating this, yes you service your car, but if you have the car running constantly with plenty of mileage eventually things will start to wear down, and thus a decrease in the ability for your car perform – again for this analogy you are the car and the vehicle is your body.
So how can sleep impact you as an athlete? Simple, if we dive into the research on sleep there has been numerous publishing.
Certain studies have shown that athletes who consistently get around 10 hours of sleep per night show marked improvement in strength, speed, agility and reaction time (1).
Athletes who get around 10 hours of sleep demonstrate significantly better motor learning abilities of movements learned the day before (2).
For the athletes who don’t get enough sleep, they are more disposed to diabetes, obesity, hypertension and other various cardio metabolic and endocrine disorders (3).
People who don’t sleep enough are often more irritable because the brain functions differently when we are sleep deprived (2).
The Do’s and Don’t for Sleep Performance
Do's-Better nutrition. Eating more wholesome food can assist with sleep. In turn, sleep helps metabolism. It’s a cycle. To maximize the benefits of nutrition and sleep, you need to do both well.
-Perform exercise in the late afternoon or early evening, finishing the workout before 7:30 p.m., if possible. Your circadian rhythms prime your body for peak performance during this time.
-When doing particularly hard workouts during a day or the course of a week or month, be sure to get extra sleep during that time to maximize your physical restoration.
-Keep your room dark, quiet and cool at night. Light, hot temperatures and noise can disrupt sleep patterns and cause you to sleep poorly.
-Avoid caffeine after the early afternoon (2,4). Caffeine can keep you up and shorten the length of time you sleep (5).
-Do not eat a big meal within 3 hours of going to bed (2,4).
-Avoid taking long naps during the day. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but try to keep them less than 30 minutes to avoid throwing off your biological clock. If you need to take a nap that is longer than 30 minutes, try to get in at least one full sleep cycle—about 90 minutes—to avoid feeling groggy.
-Do not watch anything on an electronic screen right before bed. These screens emit blue light, which essentially inhibits production of melatonin and prevents sleep.
My final comments, just like most things in life good habits are important to establish a good routine. Aim to go to bed at a reasonable time and make sure it is consistent on a regular basis. This will allow the body to establish a good sleeping pattern pattern and will allow for the correct restoration progresses.
Train like a boss, eat like a king and sleep like a baby.
1. McCann Kathleen. Ongoing study continues to show that extra sleep improves athletic performance. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. June 4, 2008. Available at http://www.aasmnet.org/articles. aspx?id=954. Accessed August 6, 2015.
2. Maas J and Robbins R. Sleep for Success: Everything You Must Know About Sleep But Are Too Tired To Ask. Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2010. pp. 171-183, 27-31, 58-81.
3. Miller NL, Matsangas P, and Shattuck LG. Performance Under Stress. Hancock PA and Szalma JL, ed. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2008. pp. 231-249.
4. Bauer J. Eat your way to a good night’s sleep. MSNBC.com. Feb. 5, 2008. Available at http:// today.msnbc.msn.com/id/23003124/ns/today- today_health/t/eat-your-way-good-nights-sleep/. Accessed August 6, 2015.
5. Mayo Clinic staff. Caffeine: How much is too much? MayoClinic.com. March 9, 2011. Available at http:// www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/NU00600. Accessed August 6, 2015.
Jenni joined ESS with a wealth of experience as a professional athlete having won a silver and bronze medal at two Olympic Games In 2008 and 2012 respectively. As part of one of the most successful sporting programs in Australian history, Women’s basketball, better known as “The Opals”. In 2006 Jenni was also a member of the same team that won the first senior World Championship for Australia. She has played professionally for 14 years both in Australia and abroad in Italy and in that time has amassed over 400 games at professional level.Throughout her impressive professional sporting career, Jenni continued her educational pursuits and in 2013 completed her Masters in Strength And Conditioning and Is currently undertaking her Masters in Exercise Physiology.