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Aug 29

Common Myth: You Snooze – You lose

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Lack of sleep affects cognitive and motor performance, according to Washington, DC based personal trainer and instructor Mansur Mendizabel: “sleep is the only time the body is fully recovering and rebuilding.” Taking a day or two off from training, trying to ‘catch up’ on missed sleep is not going to work nor is engaging in weekend ‘sleep-ins.’

It is sleep, and especially ‘deep sleep’, that makes the difference in athletes’ muscle recovery, mental acuity, and reaction time. During this phase of sleep all tissues of the body repair, according to John Broussard, doctor in Sports Medicine in Washington, DC. Nevertheless, one has to move through all stages of sleep in the proper sequence to achieve those restorative benefits.

There are 4-stages of the sleep cycle:

  • Stage 1 – near awake
  • Stage 2 – onset of sleep
  • Stage 3 – deep and restorative sleep
  • Stage 4 – deep REM or dream state

*The first REM (rapid eye movement) sleep period usually occurs about 70 to 90 minutes after we fall asleep. A complete sleep cycle takes 90 to 110 minutes on average. The first sleep cycles each night contain relatively short REM periods and long periods of deep sleep.

Canadian Olympians Implementing Sleep Intervention

The following was adapted from an article by Bill Kaufmann, August 9, 2016, The Calgary Herald, p. A3.

“If you don’t snooze, you’re more likely to lose.” That’s the message for Canadian Olympic rowing athletes taking part in a sleep enhancement study by Amy Bender, researcher at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Center for Sleep and Human Performance. “Better sleep means better a shot at a medal for Canada’s rowing team.” Bender reports that after several weeks of a ‘slumber regime’ the rate of sleeping patterns improved from one-quarter to three-quarters along with mindset and performance. This is ‘huge’ for the athletes, according to Bender. “It has to do with the intervention itself and the improvements in athletes’ moods as tension and anxiety were reduced. The acquired knowledge also proved that more and foremost quality downtime can enhance performance.”

The study used relaxation methods and reduced the amount of watching late night-time TV, and/or spending time on computer screens, whose blue light interrupt sleep patterns, according to Bender. “We had athletes use blue-light blocking glasses or other technology two hours prior to bed-time, and stay off their devices for an hour before sleep, which was quite a challenge. They were actually not very good at putting away their devices.

…I used to put sleep on the back burner but making it a priority has helped my training and now I am more alert, positive, and push harder in practice, statement by one participating female rower. Much of this is due to a from a sleep period that increased from 4-6 hours a night to 8 or 9 hours (female athlete)…

The approach also included quick refreshment 20-minute naps to enhance rowers’ ability to concentrate and recover from practice exertions. Bender states that daytime napping is also a vital boost to athletes’ energy. “Short periods can be of great benefits, but longer sleeps during the day can do the opposite by having the ‘groggy’ effect.”

Canadian swimmers are undergoing sleep research in hopes of improving their performance as are Canadian long-track speed skaters in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics. “Sleep seems to have an impact on everything from metabolism to diabetes and heart disease”, says Bender.

I have already written several times about the importance of sleep to enhance daily recovery and to improve performance. Chapter 16 in “Ballet for Swimmers” and “Ballet for Athletes.” Modified Exercises for Cross-training deals with “Post-training and Recovery”, focusing on the importance of Post-training Nutrition and Sleep. I discuss signs of sleep deprivation; suggested strategies to improve sleeping patterns; maintaining a regular sleep schedule; using sleep to improve sports performance; and provide guidelines for travel.

Look up Cheri Mah, Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory and her research on sleep and performance. She worked with athletes from several sports. She found improvements in specific measures of basketball performance after sleep extension indicating that optimal sleep is likely beneficial in reaching peak athletic performance. Improvement was found in faster sprint time and free-throw percentage, reaction time as well as physical and mental well-being during practices and games.

Given present research findings, we have now a generation of children afflicted with ‘techno addiction’ spending up to 26 hours watching TV, playing computer games, texting, and even sleeping with these gadgets. Experts have found that many children are now ‘sleep deprived.’

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