5 Reasons Sleep Optimises Performance
Sleep; what a wonderful thing. It’s our decompressor, our rejuvenator, our life-support. It’s a crucial part of every person’s lifestyle, even more so for the physically active amongst us. Roger Federer claims to sleep for almost 12 hours a night! Now, we’re not saying this is what you should aim for, no, we all have things to do and places to be. However, we mustn’t under-estimate the power, or undervalue the importance, of our precious friend that is sleep.
So, why is a bit of shut-eye so important I hear you cry?! Well…
1. Memory Consolidation
Frankly, without sleep, our mind becomes discombobulated, inefficient and ineffective. Doesn’t sound so good, does it? Sleep helps our brains to form new pathways, which in turn enables us to learn and remember information. If a professional athlete, or even one of us mere amateurs for that matter, learns a new technique in training one day, it’s important we remember this technique effectively, so we can put it into practice in future training…for this, sleep is a must.
2. Reaction Time
Let’s say you’ve been training for an event for months, and tomorrow’s the big day. You wouldn’t go on a wild night out tonight, would you? Most of us would probably (hopefully!) answer no. Well then, make sure you get a good night’s sleep; studies have shown that even a surprisingly low level of fatigue can impair reactions times as much, if not more, than being legally intoxicated! Impeccable reaction times and efficient decision-making abilities are crucial to any sport, whether it’s playing footie or running a marathon. Early night tonight hey?
3. Let’s Get Physical
Almost all sports rely on physical fitness as opposed to only skill alone. This is why we have to train so much to build up both cardiovascular fitness and the muscles used in our chosen activities. Sleep is crucial to healthy growth and development; deep sleep actually helps to trigger the release of hormones that promote such growth. So, for the sake of physical recovery and progress, sleep is, surprise, surprise, inherent to an athlete’s progress.
4. Stay Healthy
It’s not just our muscles that rely on sleep to stay healthy; our immune system does too. Immune systems are our body’s bodyguard; they defend us from infectious organisms or other invaders, and sleep deficiency can actually alter the way they respond; increasing our susceptibility to illness and diseases and therefore haltering our physical prowess.
5. Food Glorious Food
Finally, sleep even affects one of our most favourite pastimes; eating. Sufficient sleep is required to maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make us feel hungry and full. If we lack sleep; ghrelin levels are increased, making us feel hungry. If we have adequate sleep, leptin levels increase, making us feel full. Of course, nutrition is another crucial aspect to training, and so for those of us following diet plans or at least watching what we eat, it’s important we’re well rested so that we don’t over-eat or feel hungry and lack energy to train properly.
You’ve probably got the message by now…sleep is important. The reason we’re banging on about it so much is because it’s probably the part of a training plan that we sacrifice most readily. Yes, we need to train hard for an hour (or however long) a day, and eat properly for the other 23 hours…but 8 hours (ish) should be reserved for some well-deserved R&R! Go on, treat yourself.