The power of sleep can’t be underestimated. Its restorative and healing characteristics have a big impact on physical and mental health. It keeps the brain healthy and clear of toxins, keeps the mind alert, repairs cells, maintains hormonal balance and a long list of other things. But while everyone needs quality sleep, athletes require it even more so. The stress their bodies undergo means they need as much restoration and repair as they can get. The Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory at Stanford University conducted a study on members of the women’s tennis team at Stanford showing what a difference getting quality sleep can make. It revealed that athletes who extended their nightly sleep reported faster sprinting, higher hitting accuracy, and higher hitting depths.
It may seem like your body isn’t doing anything when you’re asleep, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. During sleep, it undergoes a state of recovery to prepare you for the next day. The central nervous system, which coordinates muscle movements and coordination, gets a chance to recuperate. Meanwhile, hormones like the human growth hormone (HGH) – that are secreted during sleep – helps repair tissue, build muscle mass and burn fat.
Athletes can greatly benefit from adding a couple of extra hours to their sleep. Their schedules consist of long-training sessions which means they need even more time to recuperate. Sleep can improve cardiovascular health, which is extremely important since athletes place theirs under immense strain. With a healthier cardiovascular system, athletes can sprint, bike, etc. for a longer period of time without becoming overly exhausted. During sleep, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard, and blood pressure and heart rate go down. If you aren’t sleeping enough, your body may produce more C-reactive protein, which is released in response to stress and inflammation. Too much of this protein can increase the risk of heart disease which will undoubtedly prevent you from pursuing your athletic dreams.
Some sports like tennis and hockey require athletes to react faster than others. While training and experience are very useful, getting enough sleep is crucial as it improves reaction time. A lack of it can leave you tired and mess up your ability to make quick-thinking decisions which can cost you your game. In fact, Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Center reported that people who were tired because of poor sleep had reaction times similar to those who were legally drunk. The study was conducted on subjects with mild to moderate sleep apnea as they experience disrupted sleep.
Injuries are a part of any sport, but proper sleep can accelerate recovery time. This is because sleep triggers the release of hormones that help tissues grow. Your body bounces back faster, and you’re able to resume training/playing sooner. That’s not all; sleep can also reduce your risk of sustaining injuries in the first place since you make better judgments, move faster and are able to handle pressure better.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center did a study on the influence of sleep duration on neurocognitive performance and showed that adolescent athletes who slept for 8 hours or more reduced their risk of injury by a significant 68 percent. The sleep-deprived participants had poor reaction times, visual memory, visual motor speed and verbal memory than their sleep-satisfied counterparts.
Athletes learn sports skills through practice, but sleep has a significant role to play. Quality sleep can aid in memory consolidation and help athletes execute certain plays or moves (that they’ve learned) better when they’re faced with a situation or a decision. During sleep, the brain consolidates and stores new information that can be recalled later. It does this by strengthening neural connections that form memories. If you don’t get good sleep, you won’t be able to properly remember what you’ve learned, and this can cost you a game. It also affects your ability to plan and make smart decisions.
Experts from several universities found that sleep deprivation adversely affects the brain’s prefrontal regions that are responsible for planning and decision-making. The findings indicate that getting enough quality sleep can help maintain the proper functioning of these important brain areas.
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A healthy mental state of mind is just as important as physical skill when it comes to sports. When you feel good and confident about yourself, you’re able to perform to the ability you know you have. Good sleep can drive up this trait, boost motivation and help you realize your goal. You have more energy to do what you need to, your decision-making and reaction times are faster, and your endurance sees a spike. All the benefits we’ve listed above have a bearing on your state of mind.
Training can tire and knock you out, but there are ways to help you sleep even better. Create a setting that relaxes and puts you to sleep. You can do this by dimming your bedroom, lowering the temperature and masking noise, if any, with a fan or a sleep sound machine. A comfortable mattress is important too as you need to sleep on a surface that cushions and supports your body.
Nuvanna is a mattress that does this and more. Designed by a mattress scientist with more than 20 years’ experience, it features three layers that perform unique functions. The top layer prevents overheating with the help of phase-changing gel particles that draw heat and disperse it. The middle layer isolates motion and allows you and yours to move freely without disturbing the other. The bottom layer provides support to the body, especially the spine, and prevents you from sinking in.
Getting proper sleep should be on the list of every athlete’s training regimen. No amount of drills and healthy diets will make a difference unless you get the rest you need. If you’ve been missing out on this key ingredient to better performance, make a promise that you’ll prioritize it. The rewards that come with it are huge and could quite possibly make or break your athletic career!