A Good Night’s Sleep Can Increase Athletic Performance!

Posted on February 18th, 2014 at 8:04 pm by

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Being an athlete most of my life, including participating in Division I Baseball collegiate athletics, performance at a high level becomes a game of efficiency and proper training.  As a young athlete, he or she is told to lift three hours a day,  photo images_zpsa89d2f70.jpgpractice four hours a day, and then spend the night watching sport films.  Some of the best athletes with promising potential are struck by long term performance destabilization due to improper health choices.  At the collegiate level this could be due to drinking alcohol, over-stressed classroom, athletic practicing environments, and/or unnoticed injuries.

Many athletic advisers, personal trainers, and others in the athletic world turn to supplements, pills, and therapy – but these ‘specialists’ miss one of the most important natural recovery methods for athletic performance, as well as general cognitive performance.  This ‘magical pill’ is simply more sleep.  There is obviously a difference between good sleep and more sleep, but ultimately ‘good’ sleep is referred to as R.E.M. sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep.

More Sleep Equals Better Performance

As it relates to athletes, studies have shown that an extra hour of R.E.M. sleep during training days is essential to increased performance and longevity in physical strength and durability.  Sleep is an important stage in recovery for an athlete, especially for athletes dealing with stress-induced and physically challenging training.

Just like with cognitive memory, sleep seems to cement muscle memory and improve this memory over time.  For athletes who need to make split-decisions and move quickly in and out of certain muscle memory movements, working when tired negatively affects performance.

“Teams that traditionally have practiced twice a day perform better when skipping morning practices if it allows athletes to get enough sleep rather than practicing with two sessions,” says Dr. James B. Maas, professor and chairman of psychology at Cornell University and author of “Sleep to Win!”  I would like to agree that more sleep is in compliance with stronger performance as well, but conditions of that sleep can also affect quality and effectiveness.

Optimizing Your Sleep and Performance

More sleep is useless for athletes who lie in bed staring at the ceiling all night, resulting in truly only 1-2 hours of quality R.E.M. sleep – the time when a person’s cognitive and physical recovery occurs.  Therefore, specifically for athletes, there are some guidelines for better quality sleep.

Environment

First and foremost, an optimum sleeping environment is required for sound sleep.  This includes quality temperature, light, and sound control.  Studies have shown that ‘colder’ and dryer sleeping environments actually foster better sleep; whereas hot, sticky environments can cause tossing and turning, directly reducing R.E.M. sleep and recovery.

In addition, complete darkness within a room where an athlete is sleeping can affect the athlete’s internal clock.  Waking up in darkness is a good way to feel the effects of ‘oversleeping’, which involves drowsiness and energy loss during crucial morning hours whereby quality food and drink should be consumed to start the day.

Sound Control

Finally, sound control is important when not only falling into R.E.M. sleep, but continuously staying in deep sleep throughout the night without frequent, unwanted disruptions by waking up prematurely.  Given that it takes about 45 minutes to fall into R.E.M. sleep, every time you awake from a deep sleep, you are losing approximately 45 minutes of quality sleep time.

Certain disruptive sounds such as banging, knocking, screaming, or snoring could affect a person’s R.E.M. sleep more than other sounds people may think are counter-intuitive.  For example, many people believe that sleeping with a noisy fan or humidifier will disrupt sleep, but actually the opposite is true.  These machines are consistent in nature, such as a certain melody in a song, and actually mask the real disruptive sounds like banging, knocking, screaming, and snoring.

If you want to sleep like a top-notch athlete, make sure to increase your sleep by an hour and consider the guide above; following the conditions of quality R.E.M. sleep.  These measures will increase your awareness, intelligence, muscle memory, and physical energy/durability over time.  Next time someone tells you, “Just take this supplement or pill to help you perform,” just nod your head and say, “Thanks….but I have the ‘magic pill’ back at home.”

Image License: Creative Commons image source

About the Author

Matthew Hall is a creative writer at SaatvaMattress.com, an industry leading online luxury mattress company.  Matthew is an avid blogger who enjoys sharing his knowledge with others.

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