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Athletic Performance and Sleep

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do?’”

When it comes to athletic performance athletes will work out multiple times a day, follow strict nutrition plans, and mobilize every joint in their body. One thing athletes fail to appreciate and focus on is their sleep cycles. They fail to fully appreciate how sleep affects their performance.  

Sleep is one of the most crucial aspects of athletic performance. In western society, we tend to glamorize working long hours and sleeping very little. This, however, is a critical mistake and error if you want to achieve high athletic achievement. The recommended amount of sleep that is encouraged for a human is 7-8 hours every night. Lack of sleep has been linked to many preventable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and even strokes. Understanding how to get enough sleep is a critical piece of the athletic puzzle. You should break down sleep into three critical categories, sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep timing. There are some simple strategies that you should use to get better sleep. One is sleep duration. Again the minimum amount of sleep required should be 7 hours but for athletes that should increase to 8-10 hours. Naps are great but they should not be used in replace of sleep. Next is sleep quality. Develop a routine. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before sleep. Some people believe that alcohol helps them sleep but this is not true. When you drink before bed, your liver has to process that alcohol and that, in turn, will increase your core body temperature. To sleep better at night you want to decrease your body temperature, not increase it. Also, develop a “wind-down” hour. Shut off your phones and tablets as the blue light from these devices keep your brain active and prevent you from falling into REM sleep. And finally, work on your sleep timing. Try to get the same amount of sleep every day. Sure we all love to sleep in but keep your routine. When you change the sleep schedules you have a harder time to fall asleep when you need to get back on track. Work on a steady schedule. Sleep is so critical to your performance that it is one of two questions I ask my athletes when they tell me they are not achieving their goals. First is nutrition and then I ask about their sleep. You may be able to perform some days without sleep but at some point, you will begin to break down. 

Sleep is critical to athletic performance. If you truly want to see any results in your athletic career you have to constantly focus on your nutrition and your recovery, not just your time and efforts in the gym. Sleep timing, duration, and quality all critical for getting the proper amount of sleep and that is just one piece of the athletic puzzle.

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