I thought I would begin my work for modernathletichealth.com with the relationship between sports and athletics and something that is a basic need to all humans (actually all in the kingdom of Animalia)… SLEEP. Who absolutely HATES SLEEP? If you answered ‘yes’, feel free to stop reading now, because today’s topic is the benefit of sleep. Not surprisingly, research available is concentrated on elite athletes, short term activity, and MINIMAL sleep restriction with regards to duration. With that stated, it is possible to give what research is available in terms of the consequences of decreased or disturbed sleep, the benefits of proper amounts of sleep, and what you can do about it.
To begin, sleep disturbances can begin at any age. No one is impervious to the effects of decreased or disturbed sleep. Children (ages 9-10) whose sleep was restricted for 2 weeks showed increased incidence of ADD. Restricting sleep leads to cognitive decline. From the research available, it can be shown that getting only 6 hours of sleep per night for 1 week is equal to staying awake for 24hrs, and 6 hours per night for 2 weeks is equal to staying awake for 48 hours.
But why don’t we sleep? This is due to culturally driven diurnal pattern changes: light bulbs. It’s Edison’s fault. You see, before Edison’s invention, we lit everything by sunlight or by fire and fire DOES NOT put out blue wave spectrum light. That blue spectrum excites the brain and prevents the production of melatonin. But the light bulb, the TV, iPad, cell phone and computer screen all do. It’s been demonstrated that kids with electronics in the bedroom have lower grade point averages and lower ACT scores. Good old Tommy Edison once said “sleep is a criminal waste of time and heritage from our cave days.” He was probably afraid of the boogeyman and hated the dark.
Night life… Great for the party animal, not so good for the aspiring athlete. More consequences of decreased sleep include high blood pressure, increased risk of cardiac arrest, stroke, obesity and depression, low sperm count, poor glucose regulation (more chance of type 2 diabetes), and a decreased immune response. In an article in the Sleep Journal in December of 2012, they showed that individuals who got less than 7 hours of sleep per night were 3 times more likely to get sick after exposure to rhinovirus. What about pain? A study by the Tel Aviv medical center and university of Haifa 2014 was conducted where they discovered that lack of sleep actually leads to back pain.
Why sleep more? What is the benefit of proper amounts of sleep?
Here is a short list: Increased performance and alertness, memory improvement (better academic scores), cognitive improvement, increased ability to deal with stress, increased quality of life, decreased risk of occupational injury or automotive injury, and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. The list is longer but I’m just trying to demonstrate the importance.
There is research that shows tennis players can run faster, and increase accuracy with shots and serves. Basketball players had a faster sprint, felt better at practice, and showed a 9% free throw and 3pt increase! With proper sleep duration, swimmers’ mood, alertness, and performance all improved.
So, in this stressful world, what can you do? It can be tough to maintain an appropriate sleep schedule, if you work for more than 9 hours per day, or you work the late shifts. (Don’t even get me STARTED on the consequences of working the late shifts!) If you work from 8-5, and you need 60 minutes to get ready, plus your commute can range from 40 minutes to 1 hour, that’s not an 8 hour day….that’s a 12 hour day. It doesn’t address the importance of eating in a relaxed state, or doing personal errands. In most situations a person will turn on the light bulbs, or computer, or ipad, or cell phone and work until there is no more work to be done. Here are some tips to help maintain health, and improved sleep
Sleep more: Sleep deprivation (SD) decreases muscle glycogen, decreases voluntary force and recruitment. Thus, sleep more → do better at the gym
Supplements: In some cases, patients that come to me often get both treatment and advice. And the advice is: sleep more. I often recommend a combination of botanicals like melatonin, tryptophan, and more. Tart Cherry juice is shown to increase sleep.
Routine: Commit to a time and schedule of sleep.
Minimize night time activity: eating, drinking, smoking (stimulant), and exercise.
**Exercise raises core temperature. The brain won’t cue to sleep until core temp drops down enough.
DEFINITELY DO NOT watch TV in your bedroom.
A real white noise machine (not on app on the iPad)
Proper sleeping equipment (pillow guidelines seen below)