Sleep is as important as the right nutrition and hydration when it comes to athletic performance. Sleep is crucial for effective, healthy training and needs to be a focused part of your training programme. The quality and amount of sleep athletes get can be the key to winning, or getting that personal best in a competition.
There are many biochemical activities that only happen during sleep.
- repair & consolidation of memory
- tissue growth & repair
- restoration of energy levels
- release of vital hormones such as growth hormones essential for muscles repair
Sleep deprivation has been shown to:
- increase levels of the stress hormone – cortisol
- decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity
- increase the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus in performance
- it may also slow recovery post-comp
So, just as athletes need more calories than most people when they’re in training, they also need more sleep.
- Get into a regular routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even at weekends (give or take 30 minutes)
- Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool
- No screens an hour before bed (inc. TV, laptop, phone, iPad). If you feel you must use screens, wear blue blockers to help block the light from the screens which is affecting your circadian rhythms
- Read a book or magazine to help wind down (reading for 15 mins before bed has been shown to increase the quality of your REM sleep)
- If you have a busy mind, write your thoughts down before going to bed
- When you travel, give yourself time to get used to your new setting. If you’re traveling for an athletic competition, it’s a good idea to get there a few days early so your body can adjust and you have time to get into a good sleep schedule
- On days you feel you have not slept well, don’t over push yourself the next day. Studies show a bigger impact of training on the immune and nervous systems when the body is not well rested