8 July 2019
By Samantha Kent
A tailored training schedule and a healthy diet may be key to reaching new levels of athletic achievement, but they’re only part of the puzzle. There’s a piece that’s often missing—sleep. Athlete age, ability, and competition level don’t matter. Everyone can improve their performance with better (and more) sleep.
The training process creates micro-tears in the muscle tissue. The body builds more muscle when it repairs these tears. However, the body releases human growth hormone (GH) during various stages of slow wave sleep, the deepest levels of the sleep cycle. HG reaches its peak during the first of five or six mini nightly sleep cycles and decreases with each following cycle.
However, if you get anything less than seven hours of sleep, it can alter the way the body releases GH. Too little sleep and you don’t spend enough time exposed to GH. A delayed start to your sleep cycle, however, also lowers the amount of GH released, similarly slowing the recovery process.
Sleep does more than keep your body in working order. Mental acuity, focus, concentration, and decision-making skills all require sleep and most sports use a combination of these mental skills for physical performance. Sleep even helps emotional stability, which you need to make clear decisions while on the move.
A study performed amongst an elite college basketball team found that extending sleep time from eight to ten hours significantly improved athletic performance. Three-point goal and free throw percentages went up by nine percent while sprint times went down. The athletes also reported having more energy and feeling happier.
You don’t generally need ten hours of sleep unless you’re an elite athlete with a strict training schedule but sleep, no matter your athlete prowess, can improve your performance.
The timing and quality of your sleep cycle depends on your sleep-related habits. To get more shut-eye try:
Exercising Outside: Exposure to sunlight, especially in the morning, helps regulate sleep hormone levels all day. With adequate daytime exposure, the body is fully prepared to release sleep hormones at night.
Eliminating Screens in the Bedroom: Screentime, whether it takes place in the bedroom or living room, can suppress your sleep hormones. Remove electronic devices from the bedroom, including the television, and shut everything off at least two to three hours before bed.
Going to Bed: Going to bed on time may seem simple, but it’s often overlooked. A predictable behavioral pattern allows the brain to anticipate the release of sleep hormones. It also trains your body to respond to those hormones appropriately.
Sticking to a Nightly Routine: Do you have trouble falling asleep? A nightly routine that includes meditation or yoga (although any relaxing activity can work) next to or in bed on a comfortable mattress can send you to sleep in minutes. The routine should be done at the same time and order each day.
Article provided by Sleep Help Resources. For more information, please visit www.sleephelp.org.
Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.
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