Whether you’re an aspiring Crossfitter, a kickboxing junkie, or the reigning golf champion at your club, you’re an athlete – through and through. Sports is a big part of your life, and you strive for your best performance. Ask any athlete, in any sport, what it takes to excel, and you’ll likely hear weightlifting, conditioning and practice. Some may say instruction, nutrition or even persistence. There probably won’t be many who mention sleep and recovery.
While sleep is essential for everyone, athletes absolutely must have quality sleep to meet the physical and mental demands of their sport. From the recreational level all the way to the big leagues, anyone looking to score big and perform at the top of their game needs to make sleep a part of their regimen. So, let’s dive a little deeper into the relationship between sleep and recovery for athletes.
Sleep and Recovery
Off the court and away from the gym, sleep plays a critical role in helping athletes build mental strength and physically recover from training and competitive events.
According to the London Sports Institute, hormones secreted during sleep help to physiologically restore an athlete’s body. Melatonin activates other enzymes that help to reduce inflammation, while other hormones released during deep sleep work to repair muscle, build bones, and oxidize fats.
Furthermore, the United States Olympic Committee published an article in 2016 that mentions how our brains use sleep to download information to our memory centers and permanently forge new connections between neurons. Sleep works to cement things like proper technique, complex football plays and competitive strategies learned during prior training sessions. In other words, your brain is still in the game even when you are asleep.
Importance of REM Sleep
REM stands for rapid eye movement. During REM sleep, your eyes move around rapidly in a range of directions, but don't send any visual information to your brain. That doesn't happen during non-REM sleep. There are three phases of non-REM sleep, that can last from 5 to 15 minutes each. You go through all three phases before reaching REM sleep. In the first stage, your eyes are closed, but it's easy to wake you up. In the second stage, you are in light sleep, your heart rate slows, and your body temperature drops. Your body is getting ready for deep sleep. The third stage is the deep sleep stage. It's harder to rouse you during this stage, and if someone woke you up, you would feel disoriented for a few minutes. During the deep stages of non-REM sleep, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system.
Usually, REM sleep happens 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Your heart rate and breathing quickens. You can have intense dreams during REM sleep, since your brain is more active. REM is important because it stimulates the areas of the brain that help with learning and is associated with increased production of proteins. Both non-REM and REM sleep are important for athletes.
Making Sleep a Priority
Just as you train to get better at your sport, you can train to improve your sleep!
Establishing regular routines, practicing good sleep hygiene and optimizing your sleep environment will go a long way to helping you stay strong and healthy so you can excel at your favorite physical activities.
Some tips of particular interest to athletes include:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol can suppress breathing and intensify sleep apnea, while the stimulating effect of caffeine can trigger insomnia.
- Limit the late-night lifting. Vigorous workouts can raise levels of cortisol (the human stress hormone), which impairs sleep. So, scheduling an intense session right before bed may increase your sleep latency – the time it takes to fall asleep.
- Drink only enough fluids to maintain proper hydration. You don’t want a full bladder to wake you up during the night!
- Turn off the screens.TVs and smartphones emit blue light, which suppresses the melatonin levels that make us sleepy. Put down the game film, consider staying off social media, and keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
- Take a nap. Sleep benefits are cumulative, so naps can help you recover from a previous night of poor sleep or waking up early for a training session. But try to avoid late-afternoon or evening siestas so you don’t impact your nighttime sleep routine.
- Take non-habit-forming sleep supplements. Over the counter sleeping pills can be addictive and harmful to your health in the long run. Get the best sleep supplement in the market from Ten Performance. Using Ten Performance’s PRO SLEEP can do wonders for athletes sleep quality! Ten Performance’s PRO SLEEP is a powerful, anti-catabolic sleep support formula designed to promote deep and restorative sleep.
Ten Performance’s PRO SLEEP:
- Promotes REM sleep
- Optimizes muscle recovery
- Improves anabolic hormone production
- Is non-habit-forming
- Makes you wake up refreshed & energized