We all know we need more sleep. Whether it is a gentle reminder at our yearly doctor visit or that daily rush of fatigue at 2pm, sleep is something we should all prioritize just a bit more. But in a world of too many things to do and not enough time, I often see athletes push sleep to the back burner, slowly decreasing how many hours they will dedicate to getting that shut eye. However, athletes need to understand that sleep is imperative to not only improve athletic performance, but also help reach body composition goals. Here are three reasons why adequate sleep (an average of 7-9 hours nightly if you are 18 or older - more if you are younger) is so important:
Sleep is when the body performs the majority of recovery from the day. This could be recovery from the high intensity workout you had that afternoon or recovery from the high pressure meeting you had that morning. Giving your body that recovery time is imperative to help your muscles adapt (which means that training actually improves your performance) and to protect your immune system function (which means you don't get sick as often). This allows you to wake up feeling rested and ready to work out again the next day.
2. Maintain or improve your body composition
Whether you are trying to hold on to the muscle you have or drop body fat and add muscle, the majority of this tissue change happens while you are sleeping. If you don't give your body enough hours of time, these changes are less likely to occur. In addition, multiple studies have now linked sleep loss to increased levels of hormones and brain signals that drive you to eat more the day after a poor night of sleeping. The result is that calorie intake is too high for what the body actually needs, even though you feel hungry and are simply eating in response to that hunger.
3. Focus and concentration
Not all of athletics is based on power and speed. Technique and skill require focus and concentration. When you are tired, it is hard to focus on the task at hand. Getting more sleep at night helps you to wake up refreshed and ready to focus all day, including throughout the typical afternoon slump.
If you are not currently getting enough sleep, what can you do to change that? Even an extra 15 minutes is a good first step to increase your total sleep time.
Your Nutrition Coach,