Updated: Jul 26, 2019
Sleep is such a critical and important part of athletic performance that often gets overlooked. We all know that for top performance we need to train and follow the plan, eat well to nourish the body and get a proper amount of sleep. However, sleep is often put on the back burner as busy athletes jungling family, work, and training. But sleep is equally as important as training and refueling the body.
Scientific literature has shown what happens when athletes are lacking sleep, whether it be a few sleepless nights or chronic sleep deprivation. The lack of proper sleep for athletes can cause many different side effects such as:
Aerobic and anaerobic performance can decrease.
Decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates.
Decrease in energy levels (i.e.Rather do a 30 min run, than interval work).
Decrease in focus or drive.
A greater amount of overall fatigue.
During deep sleep, the body releases growth hormones which stimulate muscle growth, repairs cells, builds bone, and helps athletes recover. Studies show that if an athlete is lacking sleep, sleep deprivation inhibits the release of growth hormone.
So how much sleep do athletes need? Sleep specialist recommend seven to nine hours of sleep daily. Everyone is different, it’s best if you estimate your own needs by evaluating and tracking your sleep patterns. If you fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed and wake up without an alarm, you are most likely getting the right amount of sleep. If you fall asleep immediately upon laying down and always need an alarm to get up, you are probably sleep deprived. Many of us make incorrect estimates regarding the quality and amount of sleep we actually get each night.
The good news for most athletes is that just one sleepless night is not necessarily associated with any negative effects on performance. So, don't worry if you toss and turn the night before a big race. One sleepless night is unlikely to hurt your performance.