Do you think yourself as a person that don’t need that much sleep and that maybe pride yourself in how well you function with a bit less sleep than the average joe? Even if you are not, you could probably try and get some more hours in the sack. In today’s article we take a look into how sleep impacts athletic performance.
Sleep, as we have previously written, is important for the immune system and a lack of it will increase the risk of getting sick. Getting sick will in turn have major downsides to hours spent in the gym and thus to your arm circumference and 1RM bench press.
Effects on the Body
Studies with total and partial (4-5h ours a night) sleep deprivation have shown that lack of sleep raises heart rate, increase oxygen uptake, negatively impacts time to exhaustion, reduces running distance and reduces speed. Studies in weightlifting report mixed results but the data seem to indicate that sleep induces feeling of fatigue and a somewhat lessened performance in the gym. Accuracy and precision seems to be significantly reduced following a short period of lessened sleep, as shown in tennis and dart players.
Effects on the Mind
Science shows that sleep loss negatively impacts both attention and executive function (planning and carrying out actions). You will probably be worse at strategic thinking and decision making and have a problem focusing on the task at hand.
The method of “catching up” on sleep does not seem to be working, i.e. you cannot sleep less during a couple of days and then think you can just lie in bed longer the day of your task and think you can perform optimally. Your performance will be impacted negatively.
Your learning curve is going to take a hit if you are not sleeping properly. This is true both for athletic performance and for academic work. The bulk of science shoes that it is during sleep that memories form and getting enough sleep allows for faster and better performance when trying to learn a new skill.
Sleep and Health
The risk of acquiring an injury increases as you cut back on hours. This is probably due to negative impacts on reaction time, attention and higher functions. In simple terms: You get a bit clumsy and thus more prone to injury.
After a bad night’s sleep you are more likely to grab that ice-cream in the fridge and just order some food instead of follow your original plan of a taking a fruit and protein-shake and grabbing a salad in the evening. Lack of sleep changes hormones related to hunger and appetite which have been shown to alter the food choices (more carbohydrates), the size of the plates (bigger) and the metabolism of the foods that are ingested (worse).
This might in time lead to problems in weight maintenance and a worsening in body composition. Data from observational studies shows that a higher BMI is strongly associated with short sleep durations, i.e. fewer hours in bed adds more kilos to your abdomen.
Take home message SLEEP MORE. GAIN MORE.
- (DOI): 10.1111/sms.12703 Article by team EBT member @jonasliefke, 4th year Medical Student, BSc Physiotherapy. www.jonasliefke.com