Many athletes have come to understand that a good night’s rest is something they absolutely cannot do without. However, have you ever taken the time to examine why getting enough sleep is so important to them? Let's discuss seven fundamental ways in which sleep can affect not only our health but how well we perform as athletes.
Sleep Affects Your Weight
One of the benefits of being an athlete is being in top physical shape. The biggest sports enthusiast can often tell what sport someone plays based on the person's physique. It's natural to gain more muscle tone and get rid of unhealthy fat when you are extremely active. However, if you play a sport and notice that you are gaining unhealthy weight despite all of your physical activity, then you may need to pay a little more attention to your sleeping patterns. Not many people stop to consider how this affects their weight.
There are several studies which have come to conclude that a lack of sleep can lead to obesity. When one suffers from sleep deprivation, he or she feels especially sluggish and often seeks out alternative energy sources. The foods that provide the most energy and in the quickest amount of time are those that are loaded with bad carbs and fats--namely junk foods that don't provide any real nutritional value. Though these high calorie pick-me-ups may serve to boost your energy in the short run, they can easily lead to significant weight gain in the end. The important thing to remember here is that when you don't get enough sleep, your body will naturally crave junk food.
Sleep Affects Your Retention
Being an athlete requires that you participate in a lot of training and can quickly learn different skill sets and techniques. In some cases, you may be a natural at these things. Others may take a little bit more time and practice. However, if you find that you are having a hard time learning certain principles no matter how hard you try, then you shouldn't automatically get discouraged. Your inability to absorb what's being taught may have very little to do with your lack of ability and more to do with your lack of sleep.
When we sleep, our mind performs memory consolidation. This is a process in which we turn new information into permanent and long term memory. This means that whatever you learned earlier in the day can only be cemented into the brain if you get a good night's sleep. If you get proper rest, then you can help to ensure that the training you have received will be like second nature to you. During competition, you will be better able to make those split second decisions with little to no hesitation, because the lessons you've learned will have been ingrained into your subconscious.
Sleep Improves Reflexes
Athletes must be quick on their feet. They should always be aware of what's going on around them and should be able to expect the unexpected. Sometimes an entire game can hinge on how fast a player's reflexes are. Though there may be times that you miss a goal or shot due to other players being faster than you, if you feel that your reflexes are not what they used to be then think about how rested you feel. Your "slump" may be a simple matter of getting to bed a little bit earlier than you currently do.
Sleep deprivation and a slowed reaction time always go hand in hand. In a study performed by NASA it was discovered that their pilots' alertness increased by 54 percent and their overall performance by 34 percent after they had taken a 26 minute nap. Studies have even gone so far as to compare a tired person's reaction to that of an individual who is intoxicated. Getting the proper amount of sleep will allow your mind to keep your razor sharp reflexes intact. During sporting events, you will be more alert and be more prepared to defend against those unexpected plays.
Sleep Keeps You Motivated
There are quotes, music and seminars dedicated solely to motivating people. Athletes find these particularly helpful because motivation is what even the most skilled player needs in order to remain inspired. You may have the ability, but without the attitude there is very little chance of victory. If you are an athlete who has lost your winning attitude and are finding it hard to muster up enough energy to give the game your best, then it's time to make a change in your sleep patterns. Your anxiety has everything to do with what you do during your recovery time.
When we sleep our body not only repairs itself but it relaxes all of our muscle tensions and other issues that are a result of stress. When we deprive our body of this much needed activity, that stress starts to build up and leads to our inability to cope with our problems in a healthy way. This makes us more prone to depression and anxiety. In order to stay in top athletic condition, it’s very important that you remain stress free and motivated. Getting the proper amount of rest will help you to stick to your training regimen without interruption.
Sleep Increases Your Stamina
Maybe you have the proper diet, have mastered training principles and are thoroughly motivated but your stamina is lacking. Stamina is what pushes on you for the long haul. Without it you will only experience short bursts of activity. Sometimes training and exercise can feel like an uphill battle, but if you have hit your fitness plateau and can’t seem to break through the wall then realize it may have something to do with your blood glucose levels. These levels are determined by how many hours of sleep you get each day.
We get our energy and stamina from glucose. Glycogen is stored in our liver and muscles, and when our blood glucose levels fall, then the body will automatically convert all of the stored glycogen to glucose. In a study conducted by Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., (University of Chicago Medical School) in 1999, it was found that this process slows considerably when we don't get enough rest. That is why when you are sleep deprived, your perception of physical exertion and exercise changes completely. Getting enough rest will give you the ability to push yourself to the absolute maximum.
Sleep Improves Your Accuracy
It's unrealistic to think that as an athlete you will make every short or goal. Even the best players have stats that are not exactly perfect. However there is no reason you can't take steps in order to ensure that you improve your chances. Though some coaches would recommend specific techniques such as visualisation exercises, they may fail to put enough emphasis on how sleep can help to improve your vision. Your accuracy greatly depends on how well rested you are.
Studies have shown that our eyes needs at least five hours of sleep each night in order to replenish. These studies have been made even more evident by research carried out by the University of Stanford. The university found that when members of their tennis team slept for up to 10 hours each night for 5 consecutive weeks, not only were they able to improve upon their sprint times, but they also hit their tennis shots more accurately. Getting the prescribed amount of rest time allows your eyes to revive themselves so that they can work at their full potential.
Sleep Allows Your Muscles To Recover
When we are injured, it’s important that we allow ourselves to heal if we would like to return to our normal activity. Some people heal quicker than others. What's their secret? Does it have to do with the medicines or supplements they take? Are they receiving a special massage therapy? Or maybe they are more into natural medicines. The most seasoned athlete knows that in order to heal as quickly as possible, you must get a sufficient amount of rest.
Wesley Snyder, Netherlands star, is convinced that his team mates injuries are a direct result of inadequate sleep – and he may be right. Sleep encourages the body to produce human growth hormone (HGH) which assists in the repair of damaged muscles. This release is at its peak during the first part of the night. So when sleep is cut short, it lessens the effect of growth hormones and limits recovery and the ability of your muscles to grow. Getting sufficient rest allows your body to fully recover from training and prepares it for the next day’s exercises. This helps to prevent injuries.
There are several reasons to make sure that you receive the proper amount of rest each night. It goes beyond simply feeling tired; it affects every aspect of your training and performance.
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Or why not download our Sleep Tips SlideShare Guide and get the best sleep of your life.
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