Written by PT Coach Hugh O’Connor
Sleep or lack of sleep can have many adverse effects, like poor motivation, performance and recovery. The ability to concentrate and focus could directly impact an athlete as they are trying to perform an Olympic lift or perform a task that requires a neutral spine. The athlete will also see a reduction in their cardiovascular abilities. This could result in over training and an inability for the body to recover properly due to lack of sleep.
The average human needs between 7-9 hours a sleep to function at an optimal level. It is thought that athletes need even more sleep to recover from taxing their bodies during workouts. There are 5 stages of sleep 1-4 and REM sleep. The first stage is when the body is most aware and can easily be stirred. To even get into this stage an athlete must be in a relaxed state 5-20 minutes prior. That means avoiding external light, especially from electronic devices. Stage 1 last between 10 seconds to 10 minutes. Stage 2 is the beginning of actual sleep and can last between 10-20 minutes. Stages 3-4 are the deepest stages and can occur between 30-40 minutes. These stages release growth hormones. You actually repeat 2 and 3 before entering into the REM stage.
During sleep the body releases hormones such as melatonin, which acts as an antioxidant, it also activates other pro-inflammatory enzymes to neutralize oxidative radicals that harm cells and promote inflammation. Sleep also is essential for muscle repair and growth, bone growth and fat oxidation. A study performed by Hausswirth and Mujika (2013) on college basketball players put the subjects on a 10 hour a day sleep schedule and saw improvements in memory and athleticism. In addition to this study they took subjects who slept 4 hours a night and had them nap for 30 minutes and saw an improvement in overall mental and physical function. Although extended periods of sleep are optimal for athletes, if it can’t be accomplished using the napping tool could suffice for a bit.
Sleep is now being considered by many experts, as important as proper nutrition in order to live a healthy and happy life.