Sleep, Athletic Performance, and Recovery
July 16, 2010
Many of the world's greatest athletes eat, sleep, breathe, and live for their sport. But did you know that in addition to physical conditioning and conscious eating, sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and competitive results?
Getting a good night's sleep is critical to peak performance during the day, regardless of activity. REM sleep in particular provides energy to both brain and body. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn't have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation, and the release of hormones.
The quality and amount of sleep athletes get is often key to winning their sport. Tennis great Serena Williams told a UK publication that she usually sleeps well and enjoys going to sleep early (around 7 pm). On the website of cyclist Lance Armstrong is a LiveStrong dare to get six to eight hours of sleep to improve mood, performance, and concentration during the day. A study in the journal SLEEP confirms the role of sleep in performance with results that show declines in split-second decision making following poor sleep and increases in accuracy among well-rested subjects.
Exercise depletes energy, fluids, and breaks down muscles. Hydration and the right fuel are only part of the equation for training and recovery. What athletes do in the moments during and immediately after competition also determines how quickly their bodies rebuild muscle and replenish nutrients to maintain endurance, speed, and accuracy. Some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of cortisol (as stress hormone) and decreases productions of glycogen, carbohydrates stored for energy use during exercise and physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may also slow recovery post-game. Recently a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, suggested that co-ingestion of large amounts of caffeine with carbohydrates after an exhausting workout rapidly replenishes glycogen, the muscle's primary fuel source.
So whether you’re at the top of your game or in the game for the fun of it, getting the proper amount of sleep each night is necessary to face the world with your best foot forward. Sleep will help you on the road to good fitness, good eating, and good health.
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