Sleep and Athletic Performance: What You Need to Know
If you are any type of athlete, then you likely understand how important it is to be well-rested. Healthy sleeping habits help contribute to better playing on the field or court, so it's important that you understand how sleep affects your athletic performance. Let's take a close look at the importance of sleep and how it shapes athleticism.
Understanding How Sleep Affects Athletic PerformanceSleep should be thought of as a strategy that promotes your ability to recover from fatiguing events, like athletic events. Both your cognitive and physiological abilities are affected by your sleep patterns, and it is your sleeping that influences your ability to avoid overtraining. When sleep deprivation occurs, poor performance is likely to be an outcome as well as reduced motivation to reach your full athletic potential. When you fail to achieve a healthy amount of sleep on a regular basis, this can lead to poor attention and a reduction in your cognitive processing capabilities. As limitations to your physiological processing capabilities become present, this can lead to:
- A compromised immune system
- Reduction in cardiovascular performance
- Disrupted glucose metabolism
- Reduction in Neuroendocrine functioning
- Inability to fully recover from sports injuries
What is the recommended amount of sleep for athletes?
Studies have shown that seven to nine hours of sleep are needed on a daily basis to help achieve healthy psychological and physiological recovery when playing sports. If you are going through training or intense conditioning, it is recommended that you obtain a greater quantity of sleep; this also applies if you are healing from a sports injury.
How does melatonin affect sleep?
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, helps produce melatonin in your body. The production of melatonin is stimulated by darkness, and once produced, is then released throughout the body by the pineal gland. As melatonin is produced, this helps signal to the body that it is time to go to sleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone that largely influences your ability to recover from training and conditioning, so it is paramount that you sleep in darkness to help ensure the hormone is properly produced in healthy levels.
Improve Your Reaction Times
As an elite athlete, you likely know important it is to maintain good reaction times. If you endure sleep deprivation, this consequently affects your reaction times. In fact, did you know that going a single night with no sleep can reduce your reaction time by up to 300 percent? Some studies have even concluded that going a night without sleep can affect your reaction times as much as if you were drunk.
Longer Playing Careers
A recent study conducted on MLB players found that fatigue can shorten their overall playing careers. A medical director at the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center, W. Christopher Winter, MD, states “We were shocked by how linear the relationship was ... “It is a great reminder that sleepiness impairs performance. From a sports perspective, this is incredibly important. What this study shows is that we can use the science of sleep to predict sports performance”.
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