Sleep is one of the most important foundational aspects of getting fit, staying fit and leading a fulfilling life. In last week’s blog, we discussed how to improve the quality of your sleep. This time out, we’re looking at how sleep, or lack thereof, can impact upon an individual’s athletic performance.
Sleep is a funny thing to think about. We spend approximately one third of our lives asleep and, during this time, our body recharges, our mind sorts through everything that happened that day, and our systems go into hibernation. It’s vital for our everyday performance, learning, development, physical and mental health, yet most of us don’t get enough of it.
Unfortunately, sleep is the victim of thousands of small decisions and trade-offs we make in our lives. We champion those who say things like “sleep is for the weak” while downplaying the importance of this basic human need.
Making the Case for More Sleep
Experts are in agreement we need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. This is the optimal time for psychological, physiological and physical recovery. As we get older, the amount of sleep we get per night tends to decrease. Former English Prime Minister, Maggie Thatcher, famously got by on four hours of sleep per night but this course of action can be destructive in the long term. Here are several ways sleep can improve athletic performance.
Improved Reaction Times
A lack of sleep has been proven to reduce alertness and decrease reaction times. Some studies even show similarities between sleep deprivation and the effects of being drunk. Picture trying to shoot a free throw or hit a golf ball after one too many beers – not easy, right? In athletics, the smallest fraction of time can make all the difference.
Maximizing Growth Hormone Release
When we achieve deep sleep or REM sleep, our body starts cranking out growth hormone. This vital hormone is essential for muscle repair, muscle growth, bone health and promoting the digestion of fats in our system. Cortisol, the hormone that regulates stress, is also produced while we are in deep sleep. Ensuring these systems are allowed to flourish has a huge impact on our power, endurance and ability to stay injury free. Speaking of injury…
Risk of Injury
Studies have highlighted that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are three times more likely to develop a cold, after direct application of a cold virus, than those who get an optimal amount of sleep. This effect extends to injury prevention, where a 2014 study showed those who skimped on their sleep were 1.7 times more likely to suffer an athletic injury.
Ready to Help
Whether you need help with injury, or are looking to put together a killer workout program, VanCity Physio is standing by to assist. To find out more, or book an appointment, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.