Written By: Dr. Robby Pullen
In today’s society, we incorporate a great deal into our 24-hour day. We work, study and socialize, as well as train, exercise and workout. Exercise and athletic training provide a vast amount of benefits, including lowered blood pressure, decreased glucose levels, weight loss and improved skin. In addition, the psychological benefits cannot be overlooked. Studies have shown mental alertness, improved memory and increased self-confidence and well-being are contributed to by consistently engaging in an active lifestyle.
The aforementioned is important, but with the inclusion of adequate sleep the benefits of exercise are substantially augmented. In fact, poor sleep will diminish your returns from exercise and training. Adequate sleep in athletes and those who train is important for the release of Growth Hormone. Human Growth Hormone stimulates muscle growth and repair, builds bone structures, burns fat cells and assists in recovery.
Sleep experts recommend most adults receive between 7-9 hours of sleep and athletes upwards of 10-12 hours. “Sleep Debt” appears to have a negative effect on sports performance, cognitive function, mood and reaction time. If you fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to sleep and wake up without an alarm, you are probably getting the right amount of sleep. If you fall asleep immediately upon hitting the pillow and always need an alarm to wake up, you are probably sleep deprived.
Listed below are recommendations that are beneficial NOT ONLY for the general population, but also athletes whether training or competing:
HELPFUL TIPS TO GET ENOUGH REST AND CONTINUE TRAINING:
- Get adequate, high quality and uninterrupted sleep. Go to bed and wake up at consistent times.
- Increase sleep time weeks before competition
- Cross train with different activity to help with muscle recovery and repair (cross training also helps to decrease overtraining injuries)
- Perform an active recovery after workouts (Stretch, hydrate and slow your heart rate)
- Have a massage on a rest day to increase blood flow to muscles and joints
8 TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP IN ATHLETES:
- Maintain routine sleep schedule: Time your workouts to maximize both benefits of enough rest and powerful workout (a morning workout usually is more ideal, therefore providing enough time for rest in evening)
- Keep it quiet in your environment: You can use ear plugs, white noise ambient sounds or a fan
- Unplug your devices: LED light on cell phones and alarm clocks has proven to increase alertness (keeping it dark will invite a more restful environment)
- Keep a cool environment (around 65 degrees can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly)
- Limit Caffeine in coffee, tea or energy drinks, especially in the afternoon as it can affect nighttime rest
- Use Visualizations, Relaxation & Meditation Techniques: Focus on breathing in through the nose and slowly out through nose. Relax one body part at a time and concentrate slowly on your feet, then your legs and up your body and back down, slowly relaxing each portion of your body as you go. You don’t have to stop thinking about your day, just don’t try to solve it while you sleep.
- Cut Down on alcohol: It will disturb sleep and while it may initially make you drowsy, it will also wake you earlier, with a very restless sleep.
- Get sunshine and Fresh Air: This maintains natural circadian rhythm (the natural sleep wake cycle is stimulated by sunlight and darkness- thus we feel more tired during the winter months).