Why Does a Lack of Sleep Affect Your Body’s Performance?
The performance of athletes is directly related to obtaining sufficient sleep. This is because more calories are necessary to provide enough fuel for the body to participate in sports. The amount of physical activity required for athletics places additional demand on both the tissues and muscles. Repairs to the body are made during sleep. This not only helps with recovery, but sleep also boosts the performance of the athlete.
The amount of sleep required for each athlete is dependant on the amount of physical activity necessary for the specific sport and their genes. The majority of adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. No matter which sport the athlete has chosen, sleep is critical for boosting performance. This is accomplished in several different ways.
When a basketball player increases their sleep by two hours per night, their speed is increased by five percent. Accuracy is boosted by nine percent. Obtaining additional sleep also speeds up both reflexes and reaction times. This improves the overall performance of the athlete.
Strengthening Mental Focus
Participating in competitions and training requires both physical strength and mental strength. Mental focus requires enough sleep every night. This is because when an athlete is refreshed after a good night’s sleep, their mood and alertness are increased. Alertness and mood are both critical for achieving the best possible performance.
The Increase in Intensity
Studies have shown an athlete increases their intensity when they receive nine hours of sleep per night. This means they can perform higher-intensity workouts and train more effectively. This includes lifting weights, running and riding a bike. The appropriate amount of sleep provides the athlete with enough energy to boost their physical performance.
The Boost of Concentration
During sleep, memories associated with motor skills are consolidated. This is important for establishing the recall necessary for specific body movements required for athletics. An athlete requires recall to make the perfect basketball shot or to perform the ideal backhand in tennis. Many of the experts believe getting enough sleep is just as important for athletes as training sessions and practicing their craft.
The Connection Between Sleep and Injury
When an athlete does not obtain the necessary amount of sleep, their risk of injury increases. Not enough sleep results in decreased muscle recovery and increased fatigue. When an athlete is fatigued, their immune system does not perform properly. This often results in spending time sitting on the bench and more illnesses. An inappropriate amount of sleep does not provide the cells with enough time to fully recover.
An athlete needs sleep as preparation for an activity or they will increase their risk of injury more and more as time passes. The Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study in 2014 regarding adolescent athletes. The study showed when an adolescent did not have a minimum of eight hours sleep the night before a game, their risk of injury almost doubled. Those receiving the correct amount of sleep were less likely to be injured.
The Correlation of Reaction Time and Sleep
Reaction time is negatively impacted by a lack of sleep. Although sleeping for eight hours will not impact aerobic capacity, reaction times are decreased by mild sleep depravation. Fatigue is a common result of insufficient sleep. This significantly decreases the reaction time of athletes and impairs their athletic performance. A study was conducted in 2000 regarding not sleeping for one night.
The results showed the reaction time for an all-nighter was very similar to an individual with a .05 percent blood-alcohol level. Reactions times can decrease by fifty percent for both scenarios.
Athletes and Sleep Depravation
Studies have revealed sleep deprivation can inhibit the body’s production of both carbohydrates and glycogen. This energy source is critical for athletes to sustain athletic activities. This includes endurance competitions such as marathons and weight lifting. If the energy stores are not replenished during sleep, there will be less natural energy available for the athlete to use.
This may result in the athlete becoming reliant on supplements with unexpected or nasty side effects. Numerous studies have shown the importance of athletes obtaining the correct amount of sleep every night to prevent a negative impact on their athletic performance. According to numerous researchers, athletes will perform better after a good night’s sleep.
How Important is Sleep for Muscle Growth?
The central nervous system and muscles both recover from athletic activities during sleep. The central nervous system is critical for the performance of athletes. This is what is responsible for muscle contractions, muscle growth, reaction time and the response of the athlete to pain. Human growth hormones are released while the muscles are recovering. This is required for sustained performance and muscle growth. Athletic performance is dependant on both sleep and muscle recovery.
How Does Lack of Sleep Affect the Body?
The immediate recovery time of an athlete may be lengthened by insufficient sleep. Unfortunately, the long-term implications are detrimental. If the athlete continues functioning without the correct amount of sleep, their career can be cut short. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine published a study in 2013. The participants were 80 of the players in Major League Baseball. The study took place over three seasons.
Prior to the beginning of the new season, the sleeping habits of the participants were recorded. The Epworth sleepiness scale was used to determine the rankings. The participants with low sleepiness scores were shown to be 72 percent less likely to be active members of their teams within three seasons. Players with a high sleepiness score were less than 40 percent likely to have been eliminated from their teams.
A lack of sleep impacts the physical performance, stress levels, mood and mental focus of the athlete. Sufficient sleep is necessary for an athlete to deliver the best possible performance.
The Positive Mindset
A positive mindset is necessary for all endurance sports. Olympic performers and top athletes have attributed a portion of their success to a positive attitude and strong visualization skills. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts mood resulting in irritability. This can interfere with the ability of the athlete to remain positive and focused during games and competitions.
Sleep Deprivation and Cortisol
Studies have found a link between increased cortisol levels and sleep deprivation. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Athletic performance results in stress. Insufficient sleep increases this stress. Competitive athletes are prone to insomnia prior to an important event because they are nervous. Two common terms in Major League Baseball are plate discipline and strike zone judgment.
This is when the player swings at a pitch not in the strike zone. A study was conducted for 30 different teams. The results showed instead of the player’s judgment improving during the season, traveling, mental fatigue and insufficient sleep led to a decline in judgment by the end of the season.
How Much Sleep do Athletes Need?
According to research, sufficient sleep improves the performance of athletes. A well-rested athlete has a faster reaction time, more accuracy and increased speed. Research has shown the average athlete requires a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. Some studies have placed this number at eight or nine. These studies included basketball, tennis, cross country, track and field and golf. More sleep results in an improvement in physical performance.
How Much Sleep Do Teenage Athletes Need?
The most common recommendation for teenage athletes is a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night. The experts believe if this is regularly increased to ten hours per night, teenagers pursuing a career in sports will have an easier time reaching their peak performance levels.
Sleep and Athletic Performance Studies
Football: When football players slept for ten hours per night during heavy training, their performances improved. Sprint times for the 40 and 20-yard dash decreased by .1 seconds. The mood of the players also improved.
Swimming: In 2007, researchers conducted a study of swimmers sleeping ten hours per night. After six or seven weeks, substantial improvements were noted. This included an improvement in swim times, turn times, kick stroke count and reaction times.
Basketball: A study conducted in 2011 showed when basketball players received an additional two hours of sleep per night, there was a five percent increase in speed. Shooting accuracy for three-point shots and free throws improved by nine percent. All of the studies conducted showed athletes forced to sleep longer than non-athletes during heavy training showed a significant improvement in their performance.
Tennis: The nightly sleeping habits of female tennis players were increased to ten hours. There was a 23.8 percent improvement in serve accuracy and a 1.5 percent improvement in sprint times.
How Much Sleep Should Athletes Receive?
Everyone requires sleep. This is even more important for athletes. Sleep enables recovery from physical and mental stress. Sleep also allows athletes to process and memorize new information. Athletic trainers understand the benefits of sleep for athletes going through heavy training. The average adult requires between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
Athletes need ten hours of sleep per night for several weeks before and after competitive and training events. This makes certain they perform at peak levels with enough sleep to recover efficiently. Adolescent athletes require a minimum of nine hours of sleep per night. If an athlete is unable to get enough sleep at night, they can supplement their sleep with naps. This solution is far from ideal.
The maximum amount of time spent on a nap is 30 minutes. An athlete should not nap prior to a competition or practice because there is a risk of sleepiness when they awaken.
REM Sleep Benefits
When the body is experiencing REM sleep, new information is transferred for recall later on. This includes important information for athletes such as written and visual information and muscle movements. When top athletes experience extremely heavy exercise, the architecture of their sleep shifts. The time elapsing prior to the athlete entering REM sleep is called the REM latency.
These athletes require more time to reach REM sleep. They spend less time in REM sleep for the first 50 percent of the night than an average adult. When an athlete receives insufficient REM sleep, their performance may decline. This occurs more frequently for sports requiring detailed information like remembering a play for football or orchestrating a movement required for diving.
The fraction of inches or seconds for top athletes can result in a loss. To remain effective, an athlete’s body must be able to perform the expected movement and react quickly.
Non-REM Sleep Benefits
The levels of cell regeneration and division are higher during non-REM sleep than when the athlete is awake. Muscle recovery is dependent on these processes. When an athlete receives insufficient REM sleep, they will need more time to recover. Light sleep is classified as stage two brain waves. This is when the brain correlates new information including coaching advice, specialized movements or recent training tips.
Cortisol levels are regulated while the body is asleep. If the cortisol levels become too high, the body will not be able to digest glucose properly. This can result in either diabetes or coronary heart disease. This was compared to the experiences of the elderly. They were found to be similar. This is because athletic endurance has been linked to synthesizing and metabolizing glucose.
This is what athletes use later on for energy to participate in events and races lasting for more than 90 minutes.
The Connection Between Producing Human Growth Hormone and Sleep
Researchers believe a lengthy and heavy period of sleep affects athletic performance. This is because the release of (HGH) human growth hormone occurs during sleep. Additional hormone production is encouraged with more sleep. When an athlete is in deep sleep, the production of HGH promotes recovery of the muscles and body and enhances tissue repair.
For an athlete to perform at their peak during the course of their career, this process is critical. Sleep and exercise both promote a natural increase in the production of HGH. Some athletes take HGH supplements to obtain a competitive advantage.
What Does Lack of Sleep Do to the Body for Men and Women?
Injuries related to sports occur in women more often than men. The most frequently seen injuries for females are sprained ankles, tendonitis, stress fractures in the shinbone or foot, injuries to the rotator cuff, plantar fasciitis and ACL tears. These injuries do not result from a lack of physical fitness. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, the reason is the basic physiological differences of men and women.
Females have higher levels of estrogen, a wider pelvis, narrower knees and looser ligaments. Women move differently due to their bone’s physical structure. There are precautions female athletes take to help prevent injuries. This includes strengthening the muscles, practicing so their knees are not as close together after landing from a jump and preventing injuries to the feet by using shoe inserts.
Women also suffer from sleep disorders including insomnia more often than men. This can prevent them from receiving the quality sleep necessary for athletics. The good news is women recover faster than men from sleep depravation.
Athletic Sleep Tips
There are tips athletes can use to improve their sleep quality. These tips are detailed below.
Practicing Sleep Hygiene: Athletes should always maintain a regular schedule for sleep including weekends. A room should be reserved just for sleeping. Falling asleep can become easier when the athlete performs the same routine prior to going to bed every night. The best possible temperature for sleep is approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A cooler temperature is often beneficial for athletes.
This is due to the amount of sweat expended by athletes throughout the day combined with a hotter temperature from athletic activities. Athletes should avoid both alcohol and caffeine a few days prior to an event. Medications and sleeping aids should not be used since they can impact the performance of the athlete. The exception is if they are prescribed by a physician.
Decreasing the Impact of Jet Lag: The ability of athletes to sleep is impacted by jetlag from travel. When traveling to the east, it is more difficult to overcome jetlag. Athletes traveling to the west or less frequently often gain a competitive edge. This is because they are already used to the specific time zone. This is similar to having the proverbial home-court advantage. This is referred to as a circadian advantage.
The best option for athletes is arriving at their destination a few days early whenever possible. This helps them acclimate to the new time zone.
Avoiding Exercising in the Evening: When the temperature of the body decreases, sleep is induced. The athlete gains the ability to sustain sleep. Exercising too close to bedtime raises body temperature. This negatively impacts sleep. Workouts and training should be performed during the morning or afternoon. This provides the body with energy for the day. The best scenario is exercising outside in the sunlight so the circadian rhythms are synced.