How Sleep Effects Your Recovery and Performance
Poor sleep habits are a silent killer that can slowly eat away at your health and recovery. Here is why you need to prioritize more shut-eye.
It’s no secret that performance is affected by multiple variables. Competition (or training, practice, etc.) depletes energy, fluids, and breaks down muscle tissue. All of this physical activity can cause delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which can dramatically diminish your bodies performance, if not addressed properly.
Of course proper hydration and the right calorie sources are an important part of your training and recovery, but they are just a piece to the bigger performance puzzle.
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In addition to mindful eating, skillful practice, specific training and conditioning – quality sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and therefore competition results. The quality and amount of sleep you get might be the key variable to winning.
Specifically, REM sleep provides energy to the brain and body. When sleep is cut short, your body doesn’t have the necessary time to consolidate memory, repair tissue, or release hormones.
How sleep affects your body and mind
Research has shown a decline in reaction-time when split-second decisions are required and suggests a lack of sleep will increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to decrease production of glycogen (energy) leading to fatigue.
But maybe you’re not an athlete or training like one. Maybe you just like to move and play and enjoy the content Awake and Alive provides. Or maybe you’re at the beginning stages of re-discovering the best version of you and your “performance” goals are establishing a new normal that includes weight loss.
It’s estimated 18 million Americans suffer with sleep apnea. Not only does sleep apnea seriously affect the quality of sleep, it can also lead to health risks like stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Sleep apnea is often associated with people who are overweight and weight gain (or gained weight) and also leads to compromised respiratory function.
From a behavioral angle, if you’re suffering from sleep apnea or other sleep related issues you’re probably less motivated to diet or exercise and will likely experience chronic daytime sleepiness – which further lowers energy levels and increases difficulty to committing to necessary lifestyle changes to get healthy and fit.
If you are sleep sufferer and you are out of shape or having trouble recovering from your training sessions, it is important to fix your sleep issues first! Addressing your sleep issues will balance out energy levels, hormones and appetite, which will you stay motivated and willing to start making those necessary lifestyle adjustments.
In addition to affecting your overall health and performance, sleep deprivation may also inhibit one’s ability to lose weight – even while exercising and eating well.
In 1999 Eve Van Cauter, PhD, conducted a study at the University of Chicago showing that restricting sleep to just four hours per night for a week brought healthy, young adults to the point that some had the glucose and insulin characteristics of diabetics.
Sleep restriction this strict may be a tad extreme, but it is also not uncommon; especially for new parents. If you’re planning on having a family, this is something to prepare for. Having a plan to ensure you get enough sleep through those crazy first months can ensure your health and training don’t suffer during the process.
Summary of the Effects of Poor Sleep
- Negatively affects body’s ability to recover from exercise/training/competition/life
- Hinders decision making
- Increases fatigue by decreasing glycogen production
- Results in poor focus
- Linked to many serious health related illnesses and leads to chronic daytime sleepiness
- May negatively affect mood
- Inhibits weight loss
Whether you’re working towards or trying to stay at the top of your game (or just the weekend warrior like me), getting the proper amount of sleep is essential to face everyday. Consistent, quality sleep will get you on the road to fitness, help establish good eating habits, and improve overall health and performance!
Want to improve sleep? Read Shawn Stevenson’s book, “Sleep Smarter.” Click here to get your copy.
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Levi is the Strength and Conditioning coordinator at Spirit Lake High School in NW Iowa. He also manages and oversees all training at Athletic Republic in Spirit Lake. While mainly training young athletes, Levi does provide adult training and manages an online training (programming) business – HarderToKillTraining.com