Could your performance get better just by improving your sleep?
Sleep has, for a not insignificant amount of time, been associated with sports performance. In short the theory has been that good sleep leads to improved performance and poor sleep will impair performance.
Generally the association with a good or bad sleep has been premised upon the duration of the sleep, but is that really an accurate measure of sleep quality? This article will explore some of the finer points relating to sleep quality as well as provide some scientific background on the purpose of sleep as a human process.
Russell Foster is a British Circadian neuroscientist: His wonderful Ted Talk on "Why do We Sleep"
What is sleep and how does it work?
Sleep has such a profound effect upon performance and health because of the wide number of vital processes that are dependent upon it. When we sleep the body in effect carries out housekeeping duties; processes that help you deal with physical and mental stress, information processing and memory formation, repair and restoration of tissues
Cues such as falling temperature and light levels are picked up by the sensory nervous system and relayed to the brain which kicks off the production of a hormone melatonin, the trigger for sleep and everything that goes with it, and as such a very important player in your health.
Once sleep has been initiated the brain goes through a series of cycles which appear to be the crux of issue, indeed it has been suggested that it is not duration that counts, but rather the number and completeness of cycles you go through.
Training and recovery, the impact of sleep
Sleep triggers the rage of a production of hormones, this hormonal milieu includes hormones like growth hormone and testosterone that are responsible for the repair and regeneration of tissues intrinsically involved in physical performance, and research shows that lack of sleep quickly impacts upon all sorts of physical tasks, with research covering weighlifters, cyclists, runners and so on.
The impact is two-fold, over the short term sleep issues have a massive negative effect upon the nervous system reducing strength endurance, concentration and co-ordination - all vital for sports and training.
Over the longer term disruptions in hormone output will effect the body’s ability to recover the tissues such as muscle as well as impairing carbohydrate storage efficiency and reducing immune competence.
In short: a bad night’s sleep with leave you weak and uncoordinated and over A long time you’ll be tired, fat and ill. Getting enough, quality sleep is important.
How much is ‘enough’?
For most of people getting less that 7 hours really starts to effect performance and health and many sleep coaches agree that aim should be on 8 hours. Studying historic texts and populations where there’s no electric light or TV’s actually shows significantly longer sleep durations for example 9-10 hours. My advice: Aim for 9, you’re bound to fall short but still will be OK.
Also remember that stress from high pressure work situations or from lots of physical training can also increase needs significantly, and although the right amount of stress can make for deeper sleep for example a well designed training program, other things, like too much training will disturb it.
Getting Quantity and Quality right
Duration is important but so is quality and sleep 'hacks', habits and little tricks that improve the environment and so can set you up for that deep, restful night’s sleep.
The Sleep Hacks
The environment must be comfortable, cool and dark:
• Reduce the Temperature
Hacking your Sleep Behaviour
What you do before bed effects sleep onset, duration and quality
Several Hours Before Bed:
1 Hour Before Bed:
After Lights Out:
• Nocturnal manoeuvers in the dark
Take away messages
• Sleep onset is cued by your environment
These practical tips will help you sleep like a baby, that deep restful sleep that we all crave is only a few little habit changes away, but you have to try them for them to work
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