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The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists

Sleep – How it effects our health, performance & training

In theory, we spend roughly one third of our lives sleeping, give or take.
As we move further into the new year our routines are likely falling back into place, however these may have been put on pause over the Christmas break, when our sleep patterns were likely fluctuating that bit more.

Sleep is actually quite a complicated subject, with several different theories as to why it is necessary for us to get good amounts of sleep.
There is an increasing amount of research emerging on the topic of sleep and its effects on the body, however for a long time it was not well understood exactly how sleep benefits us.
However, what we did understand is how lack of sleep effects the body, overall health and definitely athletic performance.

Without proper sleep, the mind and body begins to deteriorate rapidly.
You might notice that after just one restless night that your energy levels, mood, attention span, productivity, motivation, memory and even decision making skills are all negatively impacted the following day.

Conversely, getting adequate sleep can see an improvement in these areas.
If getting suboptimal sleep becomes chronic, then it can lead to an increased risk of weight gain and obesity, weakened immune system, increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as well as increased risk of depression and anxiety, among others.
Its fair to say that getting adequate sleep is extremely important for your health.

So what are the implications of a lack of sleep on athletic training and performance?

There are several studies that have looked at athletes performances based on their sleep quality prior to
activity, training or competition.
Its widely concluded that improved sleep is associated with improved performance in individual and team sports. The opposite is also deemed true, whereby athletes who have not had adequate sleep are more likely to show lower levels of pre-exercise muscle glycogen (energy) levels, report earlier onset of fatigue and exertion levels, show reduced reaction times and speed as well as slower muscle recovery, all of which negatively effects athletic performance and may also be related to an increased risk of injury in athletes who are not receiving enough sleep.

In terms of what adequate sleep actually is, 7-9 hours is typically whats necessary.

Furthermore, consistency is key and sleeping at regular times each evening and waking at regular times each morning is ideal. This may involve some scheduling to achieve.

Other key things to keep in mind are keeping your sleeping environment dark, cool and quiet with as little light sources as possible – this can even include small lights from phone chargers, etc. Relaxation is also important prior to bed, try calming activities like reading and turn off screens one hour before going to sleep.

by Stephen Coleman
Chartered Physiotherapist

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