STAR Blog #17 – The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is one of the magic wonders of the world that does not receive the amount of attention it should. For both athletes and non-athletes, sleep is fundamental for overall health and wellbeing.

Getting a good night’s rest enables your body to fall into recovery mode and feel restored for the next day. It’s no brainer that if you are sleep deprived, you are reducing your ability to function or perform, and you may even feel this for the rest of the week.

For athletes to perform at their best, they must prepare in every aspect of their lives and keep consistent within the three pillars of health which are diet, exercise and sleep – with sleep being the most important yet neglected one.

Recent studies have shown that there are clear negative effects of sleep deprivation on athletic performance including reaction time, accuracy, decision-making, strength, endurance and mood.

Elite athletes are encouraged to get at least nine hours of sleep every night, which is an hour more than the standard adult recommendation. This is because athletes need to account for their strenuous training schedules, muscle recovery and strict diets.

There are two main stages of sleep that every athlete should understand and how this impacts recovery.

REM: Rapid Eye Movement Sleep

This is the first stage of sleep that can occur in cycles between 90-120 minutes throughout the night. REM makes up about 25% of an adult’s total sleep time and provides the energy to your brain that supports it when waking up and is necessary to restore the mind. Studies have suggested that a longer percentage of REM sleep may be associated with stress and depression, as your body is taking a longer time to fall into deep sleep.

Non-REM Sleep:

This is the stage where you fall into deep sleep and should account for most of your night’s sleep time. This phase is critical for your body to begin its restoration processes such as muscle recovery. As your blood pressure and breathing becomes slower here, your blood supply becomes more available to your muscles which facilitates healing and growth. During this process, your muscles and tissues are also being repaired with the activation of protein synthesis and release of the human growth hormone.

With a lack of sleep, you can expect a decline in muscle growth as you are not allowing your muscle tissues to repair and secrete the growth hormone during the non-REM stage.

The solution is really simple, set yourself up for a better night’s sleep and feel the benefits in your performance! If you are struggling to achieve this, it may be worth experimenting with different methods that can help you sleep.

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