Passive rest, in the form of sleep is arguably the most important component of the recovery protocol. The amount and quality of sleep plays a pivotal role in providing energy to both the brain, and body. A good night’s sleep provides invaluable time for the body to adjust to the physical, neurological and emotional stressors that they may experience throughout the day.
Research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is one the biggest contributors to impaired sleep, amongst a whole host of other physiological impacts. Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease metabolism of glycogen (carbohydrates) that are stored for energy use during physical activity which can lead to reduced performance. Therefore, it’ll come as no surprise that, less sleep can increase the possibility of fatigue. Symptoms of fatigue are extensive and range from, low energy levels and poor concentration to poor diet and disrupted sleeping patterns. All of which can have a significant influence on training execution, performance at work and social situations. Managing these symptoms that are indicative of excessive stress and fatigue are crucial to any recovery strategy.
The amount of sleep needed can vary from person to person, based on lifestyle, training schedule, genetic makeup etc. According to the National Sleep Foundation, research shows that most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Athletes and those with a rigorous training schedule may well require more. It’s not all about the quantity though, the actually quality of the sleep is almost more important. The key determinants of quality sleep are included in a report published in Sleep Health. They include:
Improved quality of sleep will increase the likelihood of getting the required number of sleep cycles (4 to 5) which is deemed as being an efficient night’s sleep. So how does one improve our quality of sleep? That is the million dollar question. Below are a few tips to help keep your circadian rhythm (internal body clock) to help ensure a good night’s sleep.
There’s a whole host of other factors that can contribute to a good night’s sleep, such as; reducing caffeine consumption after 5pm (dependent on tolerance), having carbs for dinner, eating foods rich in tryptophan e.g. turkey, salmon, nut & seeds, pineapple etc, avoiding training late, not drinking too much water pre bed, less alcohol, jotting things down before bed…the list goes on. Sleep is such a complex subject, scientists believe they still don’t know all there is to it.
However, research indicates that there is a lot we can do to help improve the efficiency of our sleep. Create your own routine – the body thrives off routine and it may just be what stands between you and some good old fashioned shut-eye. Try getting to sleep before midnight (nothing happens after 10pm anyway unless you’re out) and give your body the best chance of getting those all-important sleep cycles in.
Sam is a Strength and Conditioning Coach with experience of working in a number of different sports. Sam has been fortunate to have worked alongside some leading coaches and practitioners. Having worked within professional football, he possesses an adept understanding of coaching, and competing at elite level. He continues to work within football, and the endurance world, helping athletes prepare for distance running and triathlons.
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