Sleep and Athletic Performance
Bigger muscles. A shorter mile time. A higher jump. The ability to do backflips.
All over the world, people are working hard to become more and more athletic through rigorous training and proper nutrition programs. Pro athletes and aspirational regular folks spend tons of time searching up the right amount of calories, carbs, energy drinks, protein, and other nutrients to eat — all in the name of fueling a fitter body.
But there’s one key nutrient a lot of us forget about. It doesn’t cost any money, won’t give you the jitters like caffeine will, and doesn’t take time to make like a healthy meal will.
What is it? It’s getting quality sleep!
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or an everyday person who’d just like to look a little more like your favorite action hero, getting a good night’s sleep is essential to meet the physical and mental demands of exercise. Leaping over literal hurdles, running five miles, or riding the waves, it’s all easier when you’re well-rested. Endurance sports in particular take the biggest hits from a sleep-deprived night.
1. Better motor skills.
Athletic success depends a lot on your motor skills, which are disturbed when you aren’t getting enough sleep. The motor skills you learn are actually reinforced during sleep — the neural points stimulated during such activities recover and strengthen. Studies have shown that your actions during the day, such as learning a new dance routine, are replayed by your brain. So think of getting to bed in time as a little practice session!
A study showed that even an hour or so boost in sleep led to basketball players shaving off seconds off their sprint times.
2. Recover better from your workouts.
It’s totally natural to want to crash on your mattress after a hard day’s exercise, especially if your legs feel like jelly from crushing it at the weights. Melatonin and other hormones released during sleep help to repair the tears in the muscle from exercise, build bone, and oxidize fat. For example, your pituitary gland releases growth hormones to stimulate tissue growth and muscle repair. A lack of sleep can disrupt growth hormone production.
3. Get injured less.
Studies have shown that better sleep is negatively correlated with injury rates. There’s a few forces behind this: slower reaction times and less muscle recovery are two. A slowed reaction time may mean not being able to dodge an unwanted impact. Enough sleep deprivation can even hamper you like being drunk would. Less muscle recovery can lead to less strength to deflect blows and handle other endeavors such as squatting 200 pounds.
If you’ve pulled just one all-nighter, you can probably recall how groggy and fazed you felt the day after. Now try to run a marathon like that. Actually, don’t.
4. Focus better.
A lot of athletics isn’t just about brute strength, but also strategy. Many sports require mental fortitude and tons of focus and concentration. We’ve stated on this blog a few times before on how quality sleep can improve memory and focus, so we’ll reiterate it again here and state how critical it is to many sports.
For example, it’s important to focus on where the ball is in basketball, tennis, or soccer, or how your physical form is in weightlifting and dance, and the positioning between your body and the equipment in gymnastics.
If the above is giving you a kick to get you to sleep better, it’s wise to start reading some articles on activities, food, and apps to help you hit the hay in time. Regardless of whatever method you pick to help you unwind, quality bedding materials will always be a fantastic complement.
Fortunately, Lull is taking $250 off any size memory foam mattress to celebrate Independence Day. Cool off after a sweaty workout with the gel top layer with your head on a memory foam pillow while you mentally review your latest dance moves or tennis strategies. Even if you’d like to forget about your workouts altogether, your brain will be strengthening those neural gains while you sleep.