We live in a society that treats sleep as a luxury at the very least and everyone who shows the signs of needing it as a weakling. We seem to prioritise everything over sleep, be it work, training, socialising, you name it. But should not we give sleep a little bit more attention in our hectic lives? Is it really so unimportant and a waste of time? We don’t think so and luckily science backs us up.
What happens when we sleep?
According to science, all mammals need sleep. It is absolutely vital and necessary for an optimal functioning of our body. It is during that time when our memory is repaired and consolidated as well as hormones released. It provides energy both to brain and body.
During sleep our skeletal, muscular, nervous and immune systems are being restored. In fact, it is one of the most important processes that maintain mood, memory and cognitive functions and ensures good overall functioning of our bodies.
Exercise depletes energy, fluids and breaks down muscle ; hydration and the right fuel are not the only part of training and recovery. What athletes do in the moments during and after competition also determines how quickly their bodies rebuild muscle and replenish nutrients so having a good rest helps maintain endurance, speed and accuracy.
In other words, whether you are a professional athlete or just an active individual that prioritises their fitness, you should give the quality of your sleep more attention. If you cannot recover from your workouts then the benefits gained from those workouts are potentially reduced.
If you skip on sleep, you are likely to see consequences in all areas of your life. Sleep affects how much we exercise, how often and what we eat (lack of sleep is associated with poor food choices) and how we function overall on a daily basis. It also affects our concentration and alertness and it makes the time of reaction much longer.
What is more, insufficient amount of sleep can lead to many serious health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure to name a few. When you consistently ‘undersleep’ it may also lead to lower immunity and make you catch all the bugs that are going round. To read more about the consequences of bad sleep habits go to NHS website.
How much is enough?
Everybody is different and so are their sleep needs. It depends on your genes, lifestyle, job and how much energy you give to your sport. However, there are some general guidelines that you might find helpful. According to National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of shut eye time daily.
The best way to find out what is the optimal amount for you is when you are on holidays and do not have to work within a set schedule or get up at a certain time. Just take a note of how many hours you slept for a week. Once the sleep debt has been paid off, which normally happens after approximately four days, the amount of zzzzz’s time you had for the next few nights is the ideal amount you need.
You can try a similar test to figure out how your own internal circadian clock works to make sure you get the most of your sleep. Some people will find it naturally easy to go to bed early and rise with the sun the following morning, whereas others would prefer to stay up longer and would be unlikely to enjoy a 5 a.m. workout.
Sleep your way through to success!
Now, once you have figured out what is the right amount of sleep for you, you might even want to try and add a little extra every now and again and see what happens then!
There was a study carried out on Stanford University men’s university basketball team between 2005 and 208. During the first period of experiment ( 2 to 4 weeks) , the participants were asked to maintain their usual sleep habits, which was less than seven hours per night. For the following period that lasted five to seven weeks, they were encouraged to obtain as much of nocturnal sleep as possible but not less than ten hours daily.
The players were asked to perform a set of shots and sprints during each period respectively and the results were compared afterwards.
Not surprisingly, it was proved that sleep extension significantly improved different aspects of the players performance from shooting percentages to sprinting times.
According to Cheri D. Mah, MS, a researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory in Stanford, California, an athlete’s sleep schedule should be made integral to training any sport in order for an individual to achieve their personal best.
To sum up, sleep is an integral part of our life and a good night’s rest is absolutely essential not only to recover from physical exercise but also from the mental rigours of every day life.
If you need some tips on how to get yourself into good sleeping habits, check out the to NHS website for advice.