Training and adequate nutrition are two integral ingredients in the recipe for health and wellness. In our culture that thrives around going at all hours of the day, we can easily forget the most important element of the list: sleep!
It's quite typical, now, to brag about how little sleep we get. "Oh man, I got home from work at 10:00, and then I had to wake up at 5:30 AM to get back to the office!" That is just one of many such comments I've heard from friends of mine. Somehow, sleep, or the lack thereof, is supposed to be a trophy of our busy lives. Sleep is this ever-elusive wonderland that we rarely get to enjoy.
If you're living an active lifestyle, your poor sleep schedule could be depriving you of your hard-earned efforts! Evidence repeatedly suggests that minimal sleep can negatively impact performance, while, on the other hand, ample sleep can act as a natural performance enhancing drug!
|If only we could all snooze like this little guy...|
Skein et. al. performed a study on young men. The control group was instructed to sleep adequately, while the experimental group did not sleep for 30 hours leading to the sprinting test. They found that "sleep loss and associated reductions in muscle glycogen and perceptual stress reduced sprint performance and slowed pacing strategies during intermittent-sprint exercise for male team-sport athletes."
While that study measured sprinting performance, another study with Reilly et. al. tested the biceps curl, deadlift, leg press, and bench press. No noticeable change occurred in the biceps curl, but the participants saw a huge drop in the bigger compound movements. "...A significant effect was noted on maximal bench press, leg press, and deadlift. Trend analysis indicated decreased performance in submaximal lifts for all the 4 tasks: the deterioration was significant after the second night of sleep loss."
The last three movements have a bigger effect on the central nervous system, because they require bigger muscle groups. Therefore, it makes sense that there was no significant change in the biceps curl, but the other three exercises changed dramatically.
The lack of glycogen is going to have a detrimental impact on performance in multiple different activities. The muscles will not be able to produce the same amount of power as they would with adequate sleep. Similarly, low glycogen can effect cognition and focus, which are essential for all sports. If an athlete cannot focus, then he will not be able to optimally execute what is asked of him. For a sport like pole vaulting, which requires absolute precision, insufficient focus could be dangerous.
Satisfactory sleep, on the other hand, can have some pretty ridiculous benefits. During sleep, the pituitary gland produces Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH allows for improvements in body composition and aids in the repair of damaged muscle tissue. If we lose out on a full sleep cycle, then our recovery, and therefore, subsequent performance, will be subpar.
Cheri Mah, M.S., performed a series of studies on athletes at Stanford University. "Over three seasons, from 2005 to 2008, the scientists looked at 11 Stanford basketball players. For two to four weeks, the Cardinal kept to their normal schedules. Then for five to seven weeks, they watched what they drank, took daytime naps and tried to sleep for 10 hours every night. After increasing their daily rest, the players sprinted faster and said they felt better in practices and games. Their aim got better too: Their three-point shooting jumped 9.2 percentage points, and their free throw percentage increased by nine points." These high level athletes all reaped the benefits of extra z's every night.
It can be hard to find the time to get extra sleep every night, but the benefits of doing so are tremendous. Even if you have a busy schedule, try to set a time to go to sleep each night that will allow for a minimum of 8 hours. You'll notice improvements in your mood, focus, and your performance in the gym!
- Mah, Cheri D., Kenneth E. Mah, Eric J. Kezirian, and William C. Dement. "The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players." Sleep 34.07 (2011): 943-50. Web.
- Reilly, Thomas, and Mark Piercy. "The Effect of Partial Sleep Deprivation on Weight-lifting Performance." Ergonomics 37.1 (1994): 107-15. Web.
- Skein, Melissa, Rob Duffield, Johann Edge, Michael J. Short, and Toby Mündel. "Intermittent-Sprint Performance and Muscle Glycogen after 30 H of Sleep Deprivation." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 43.7 (2011): 1301-311. Web.