How Sleep Affects Athletic Performance
Sleep is an essential part of an individual’s health and well-being, impacting physical development, emotional regulation, cognitive performance, and quality of life. Evidence suggests that increasing sleep duration and improving sleep quality in athletes is associated with improved performance. To elicit the ability to perform at the elite level athletes must prepare all aspects of their lives including, diet, rest, recovery and importantly sleep.
Why is sleep important for athletes
For anyone exercising, obtaining the right amount of sleep is essential for overall health and wellbeing. Sleep allows the body to recover and repair damaged cells and tissues after physical exertion. It can also help to prevent or help recover from illness or infection as during sleep the body releases cytokines which are hormones which help the immune system fight off infections.
Sleep is also integral in helping an athlete’s mental state. When an athlete practices or learns new skills, sleep helps form memories to retain and consolidate this movement. Loss of sleep is associated with reduced cognitive function such a decision making and adapting to new scenarios.
How does sleep affect athletic performance
Sleep disturbance is a common occurrence prior to competition which could impact an individual’s performance. Sleep restriction over time can impact sport specific skill execution, submaximal strength, and anaerobic power.
Poor quantity and quality of sleep may negatively impact the individual in a variety of ways. Sleep deprivation affects the mental state by reducing the ability to react quickly and think clearly increasing the likelihood of poor decisions and risk-taking behaviour. Irritability is also enhanced and the risks for anxiety and depression may be heightened by a lack of adequate rest.
If athletes do not receive adequate sleep it may contribute to:
– inhibited ability
– decreased accuracy
– quicker exhaustion
– decreased reaction time
– difficulty learning and decision making
– risk for injury
– risk for illness or immunosuppression
Sleep hygiene is a process of putting yourself in the best position to sleep well each and every night. It involves incorporating healthy behaviors and altering environmental factors to promote a good night’s sleep.
Common tips involve:
– creating an appropriate sleep environment: sleeping in a dark and cool place with little to no noise
– avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime
– stay away from electronics before bedtime
– have a wind down routine: activities such as reading, taking a bath or meditating
Therefore, it is essential to promote a healthy sleep routine to ensure optimal performance. Everyone has their own individual sleep time, and to figure this out pay attention to how much sleep you need to stay alert during the day and function well. If you want to continue to perform well, sleep as close to this baseline level as possible.