We all know sleep is important. It appears as much as any other topic in these newsletters (if you want to read our bi-weekly newsletters reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the email list). That’s because I believe that it is one of the most beneficial things that we can do to help live happier and healthier lives. With that being said, getting enough sleep can be a struggle for a lot of people, due to various factors (stress, anxiety, screen time, busy schedules, etc.). Lack of sleep has been shown to cause headaches, concentration and memory related issues, weakened immune systems, as well as more serious effects such as an elevated risk of diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Obviously, these can be some extreme effects and one night of bad sleep will, more than likely, not cause any serious issues, but if it becomes a chronic problem, there could be issues down the line.
Having a sleep schedule can be very helpful. Our bodies have a natural internal clock, called a circadian rhythm, that has an impact on our mood, and our physical and mental state, throughout the day. We are creatures of habit, so by establishing a sleep schedule, with a bed time relatively around the same time every night, our body is able to regulate its circadian rhythm to benefit us in the best way it can. This means that, subconsciously, our body will know when to be awake during the day, and will begin to power down as the evening creeps closer and closer to that set bed time.
I’ve touched on this a lot in previous newsletters, but it is important to know that our bodies are able to recover from exercise while we sleep. In fact, most of the muscle rebuilding process is done as we sleep. Whether you’re an athlete or not, sleep is a major factor in your health and wellness recovery.
While there may be some evidence that sleep deprivation would cause a lack of muscle recovery and thus lead to an increased injury rate, most of the injuries that athletes experience from lack of sleep are more judgement related. What I mean by this is that without sufficient sleep, the brain isn’t working at its full capacity so the signals that are relayed from the brain to the different parts of the body are a little sluggish or inaccurate at times. This could lead to something like an athlete misjudging their foot placement by a minor margin as they are trying to jump for a ball leading to an injury to their ankle, knee, or hip.
There was a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics that looked at a group of athletes and the likelihood of them getting injured based on the average hours of sleep they got each night. As you might have expected, those who had lower amounts of sleep per night (5-7 hours) had a much higher injury rate than those that were able to sleep for longer periods of time at night (8-9 hours).
Tips and tricks to get higher quality sleep
-Eat no closer than 1-2 hours before bed: If you are eating right before bed, your body becomes metabolically active at a time it is normally switching off and inactive. Most of the food that people consume late at night is often not very healthy and have a lot of stimulants in them, which could cause a sleep disruption.
-No screen time 30 minutes before bed: This will allow ample time for your brain and eyes to relax and get ready to sleep.
-If you have a busy brain or are stressed, jot down a list of what is on your mind and come back to it the following morning: This will hopefully allow you to get whatever it is that’s on your mind to clear itself out. By making a list, you won’t forget it and therefore won’t stress about forgetting it the following day.
-Reduce late in the day fluid intake: If you regularly get up to use the bathroom throughout the night, take a look at how much you are drinking before bed. If there is an excessive amount in the evening compared to the rest of the day, cut back a bit and try to make it more consistent throughout the day.
A very helpful podcast that goes into more depth into sleep and its effects on exercise and everyday life is The Real Science of Sport Podcast S3 E22: The Science of Sleep Q&A. (thanks to Michael Zweifel, (@bbaperformance), for recently posting his favorite podcasts on Instagram).