I wanted to review a recently published article in the National Strength and Conditioning Associations Strength and Conditioning Journal titled, The Importance of Sleep for Athletic Performance. For every recreational athlete and avid exerciser there are pearls of wisdom in this article that most of us can benefit from.
Lack of sleep leads to poor performance, reduced motivation and drive to work out. Additionally there is a compromised thinking ability leading to poor attention and concentration, heightened level of perceived exertion and increases in pain perception. All of this leads to the body not being able to recover from training and exercise. It has been reported in athletic populations that a lack of sleep is common.
Sleep can be improved with a few common practices, including strategies to fall and stay asleep and, improve duration of sleep. These methods will serve to enhance sleep quality and subsequently improve training, performance and enjoyment of exercise.
During sleep, recovery is promoted largely through our bodies hormone activity. Melatonin which is released during sleep acts as an antioxidant, metabolizes oxidative radicals which harm cells and promote tissue inflammation, regulates immune function through both nervous and endocrine systems. Finally, melatonin regulates sleep cycles called circadian rhythms. Growth hormone and androgens are both essential for muscle repair, muscle building, bone growth, and promoting the oxidation of fats. Effectively sleep promotes recovery.
With moderate to high volumes of exercise and training sleep requirements are typically elevated above the recommended 7 hours. Younger athletes may require as much as 10 hours per night. It is worth mentioning that napping can reduce sleep debt but should be limited to 30 minutes about mid-day.
Strategies to promote sleep quantity and quality
- Ensure dark room with no light source present
- Quiet environment
- Maintain a cool room temperature
- Ensure that bedding/clothing does not cause an environment that is too hot
- Sleep routine: consistent time each night for falling asleep to begin and waking up
- At least 7 h sleep a night
- Napping not later than mid-afternoon
- Avoid caffeine and food/fluid ingestion leading up to sleep
- Avoid the use of computer, tablet, TV before sleeping
- Should be used to recover sleep debt
- 30 min are adequate
- Awakening under bright lights
- Immediate face washing upon awakening