The importance of sleep for recovery and performance
Sleep affects the quality of training, due to its impacts on recovery. So, getting enough rest is an essential step in maintaining and improving performance.
How does sleep affect recovery and performance?
Basically, your body needs time to repair in your rest times between workouts. During the recovery periods between workouts, your body will adapt to the stress of exercise, by replenishing energy stores and repairing the tissues damaged from exercise.
When you sleep, recovery is promoted by hormone activity in a number of ways. This includes:Melatonin acting to activate proinflammatory enzymes, which will work to neutralize the oxidative radicals which play a part in tissue inflammation. The release of growth hormone and androgens during deep sleep which are essential for muscle growth and repair. Sleep also promotes recovery and restoration of the immune, endocrine and nervous systems, as well as stimulating memory and learning potential.
Research has shown that a lack of sleep or sleep deprivation can lead to a decrease in human growth hormone activity (human growth hormone is important in tissue repair) and increases in cortisol (a stress hormone) which can increase stress and in turn can affect training and performance ability.
The restorative effects of sleep can be of benefit to athlete recovery.
The link between sleep and weight
Weight loss and weight maintenance are both popular goals for a lot of people. A constant lack of sleep each night can actually result in weight gain! Research studies have shown that those who regularly sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to gain weight than those who sleep seven or more. Lack of sleep can increase cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone, which has been linked to weight gain.
So how much sleep should you have?
Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question. Some people need 6 hours a night for proper recovery, where some might need 8.5. Factors such as your age, gender, health, stress levels, workload, occupation and lifestyle can all affect the amount of sleep you need. Most athletes need upwards of 7 hours per night, however this changes from athlete to athlete.
Have trouble getting to sleep?
There are many factors which can influence your quality of sleep, including stress levels, lifestyle and what you do before sleeping at night.
Avoid the use of backlight items before bed, including phones, computers and the TV. Try reading for 15 minutes each night before sleeping instead.