From time to time, I choose to have guest posts from experts on topics I think you, my readers, will be interested in. Today’s author, Mary Lee from Tuck shares How Sleep Improves Your Athletic Performance.
About the Author: Mary Lee is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She specializes in sleep’s role in mental and physical health and wellness. Mary lives in Olympia, Washington and shares her full-sized bed with a very noisy cat.
Many athletes meticulously plan out meal plans and training regimens to help them run faster or longer, but the real key to a better workout may be in your bedroom. Sleep is essential to improving fitness. There’s a reason that the procedure for recovery, RICE, starts with the word “rest.” Staying off of your feet for a day might not be enough to up your performance to the next level. However, extending your sleep by a few hours each night might give you just the boost that you want.
Sleep affects athletic performance by enabling a quick recovery, helping you to avoid injury and making you feel better on the track or the court.
Sleep Repairs Muscles
Working out tends to be hard on the muscles. They stretch and tear. Luckily, your body is well-equipped to repair these tears. Muscles heal pretty fast when you think about it. The exact mechanisms of healing are still being explored, but protein and sleep both play a role.
Researchers suggest that sleep doesn’t necessarily cause healing but permits it to happen. This finding means that simply resting for enough hours (at least seven for most people) each night allow recovery to take place. However, if you deprive yourself of sleep, the healing might take place more slowly. In this case, literally doing nothing will help your muscles feel better faster.
Sleep Maintains Good Reaction Times
Runners don’t often think about reaction times (other than when racing), but it has an impact on all sports. Being able to dodge the dog that ran in front of you or that curb that you forgot about is essential to continued training. Falling can lead to serious muscle tears. Sleeping more may help you maintain the reaction times that you need for sports.
Sleep deprivation slows down your reaction times. In a study of night guards, their reaction times slowed in comparison with their well-rested colleagues. In running and other sports, reaction times can make the difference between a terrible fall and a little stumble. Sleeping enough can help you keep moving fast.
Sleep Leads to Improved Performance
Studies suggest that sleep leads to improved performance. Not all of this improvement can be traced back to strong muscles or quick reaction times. Some of it may be in your head. Athletes who extended their sleep reported better mental well-being and also improved their stats. In a small study, college basketball players increased their shooting percentage by sleeping 10 hours a night.
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality
If you want to take advantage of this easy way to increase your speed and athletic skill, you can start by improving your sleep conditions and habits.
Start by setting a bedtime. Sleeping and waking at the same time each day helps your body release sleep hormones at the appropriate time. It may be easier to fall asleep and wake up in the morning if your schedule is consistent.
Improve your bed. Muscles soreness after a workout is normal and it shouldn’t be traced back to your bed. Mattresses come in different firmness for a reason, so they can support different sleeping positions. Check mattress reviews to make sure that yours supports the way that you like to sleep.
Turn off screens a couple of hours before bed. Our brains are still programmed to respond to light. When you see light at night, especially the blue wavelength light from electronic screens, it tells your brain that it’s time to be awake. It may be easier to fall asleep if your brain has adjusted to dimmer lighting at night.
Diet and training regimens are ingredients in a successful athletic performance, but sleep plays a role too. To race at your fastest, make sure that you get a full night’s sleep.