Sleep and athletic performance are highly related. A good sleep improves the quality of your training, body compositon, and helps you lose weight.
If you are an athlete, sleep is very important. In this post we'll see the relation between sleep and athletic performance, and practical applications to improve it.
Why Do We Sleep?
We need to sleep. In fact, e can survive longer without eating than sleeping (source).
Only 11 days without sleeping is the record known to date.But you don't need to stay awake all 11 days to start noticing the severe consequences of sleep deprivation.
After 3-4 days, irratibility, paranoia, or cognitive impairements start to appear
Why do we need to sleep? To recover and recharge (source).
Our body is constantly functioning during the day, and cannot work forever.
We need to give all the structures of our organism a rest to recover and recharge to keep functioning the following day.
Benefits of a Good Sleep
Training is important, and we need it to build muscle. But not everything is done at the gym.
All our actions and lifestyle contribute to our body composition and athletic performance. And sleep is one of the 'big ones'.
Sleep improves Muscle Recovery
Muscle adaptations are not produced while we train.
Training is the trigger, but it's not until we are resting when muscle tissue is created and muscle hypertrophy occurs (study).
Sleep deprivation increases production of catabolic hormones, affecting muscle recovery (study).
Sleep Reduces your Fatigue
Fatigue cannot be avoided, but we can sort it out to delay and lower it. And here is where a good sleep comes into play.
Muscle fatigue is also affected by sleep deprivation. A bad sleep increases accumulated blood lactate and higher percieved exertion during training (study).
In this study (study) sleep deprivation didn't affect psychomotor performance nor handgrip strength.
This suggests that our body could still build muscle mass under sleep deprived status, although it wouldn't be optimal.
Sleep Improves Muscle Performance
Muscle performance is the capacity of the muscle to do work (source).
In this study (study), sleep deprivation was associated with lower muscle strength. However, this effect was only significant in multi-joint exercise.
In other sports disciplines, enough sleep was associated with better accuracy, learning, and time (study).
Although it doesn't seem to affect muscle mass directly, sleep deprivation could also affect hormonal production.
Sleep deprivation increases catabolic and lowers anabolic hormones (study)
Sleep and The Supercompensation Theory
Training itself doesn't make you build muscle
The acute respone from training and the consequent recovery is what increases muscle size and strength overtime.
Doesn't matter how much we train, that if we are not having enough recovery, there won't be supercompensation and you won't build any adaptations (source).
In this study, sleep deprivation of 24h lowered the recovery process (study), showing a lower VO2 uptake and lactate accumulation.
If you want to be in the green line, you need to make sure there's a right balance between training and recovery.
- Recommendations on sleep are between 7-9h each day
- Nutrition, training and sleep are the three basis of health
- Sleep deprivation is associated with lower muscle recovery and suboptimal muscle hypertrophy
- The supercompensation effect is deteriorated under sleep deprivation conditions
Practial Application to Get a Good Sleep
Following these quick tips you'll be able to sleep better and feel more recovered for your next training session.
Remember, sleep is not only important for athletes. Every action in our life is improved when we have enough sleep.
Avoid Blue Light at Night
Blue light is present in any electronic devices and some lamps with a 'white' bright.
If you need to work or/and use any electronic devices late at night, use blue light glasses. They block the blue light (study).
Don’t Consume Stimulants
Stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks, tea,.. contain high doses of caffeine or any analog (study). These substance acts by antagonizing adenosine receptors. When the interaction of adenosine and its receptor is blocked, you avoid the relaxing and calming effects of adenosine.
Taking high doses of caffeine before sleep can lower your sleep quality, making it harder to sleep and induce deep sleep stages.
Avoid caffeine beverages 5-6h before bedtime. This way we can ensure that all caffeine has been flushed out and completely metabolized in our body (study)
Build a Good Sleep Environment
Building a good environment can help you achieve a greater sleep. The three aspects to consider here are light, noise and temperature.
Light for a Good Sleep
Your eyelids are able to capture light even when they are closed (study).
For a good sleep, close the windows and avoid any light coming in the next morning. Bright light exposure in the morning leads to reduced sleep (study).
Artifical light exposure overnight disturbs sleep phases and lower sleep duration (study)
Noise during Sleep
Noise is a harmful cause of sleep deprivation. Acoustic increases brain and metabolic activity.
When you are asleep, you are sensitive to low levels of sleep. Even those so low that they are unnoticeable can be sensed by your brain during sleep (study)
Thermal environment affects sleep quality.
Heat or cold exposure increase wakefulness and decrease rapid eye movement (study).
And this is strongly related with thermoregulation, mechanism by which we are able to regulate our sleep cycles.
Optimum temperatures for a good sleep are between 20-23ºC (Study)
- Avoid blue light late at night
- Build a good sleep environment. Dark room with no lights nor noise.
- Regulate your room temperature to have it between 20-23ºC
- Stop driking caffeine beverages 5-6h before bedtime
Sleep and athletic performance are highly related. Sleep deprivation can decrease muscle recovery, muscle performance increase fatigue and avoid the supercompensation effect.
Recommendations of 7-9h are sufficient to avoid all these adverse effects and boost your training performance. Some tools to improve your sleep duration and quality are, among others:
- regulate temperature, noise and sound
- avoid stimulants late on the day
- avoid blue light before bedtime