Feb 10

The Importance of Rest and Sleep – Part 1

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Knowing the benefits of sleep and getting enough of it are two different issues. Part of post-training recovery and regeneration is to establish and maintain a pattern for adequate rest and sleep. According to research, sleep may be best performance booster whereas lack of sleep is a negative factor, which slows down recovery and compromises the immune system. Chronic sleep deprivation may increase the risk of acute injuries and even cause the body to store extra fat. Subsequently, tired bodies cannot respond to the athletic demand of performance. Researchers speculate that deep sleep helps improve athletic performance because this is the time when the growth hormone is released, which stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building and fat burning, and helps athletes recover whereas sleep deprivation slows the release of such hormone.

Sleep is also necessary for learning new skills; therefore, this phase of sleep may be critical. Researchers point out that as little as 20 hours of sleep deprivation can have a negative affect on cognitive and fine motor skills and affects proprioception – the sense of balance and the ability to weight shifting, even when the eyes are closed whereas the balance of sleep-deprived athletes is more likely off.

Sleep scientists have concluded that most U.S. adolescents operate in a constant state of ‘jet lag’ as adolescents need about 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night. Some sleep experts recommend nine to ten hours for adolescents and teens, and seven to nine hours of daily sleep for adults. However, very few get that. Even if they do go to bed on time, most teens find it difficult to fall asleep at a decent hour. Prior to adolescence, most children are asleep naturally around 8 or 9 pm, according to sleep specialist at Methodist Charlton Medical Center. However, puberty changes a teen’s internal clock, delaying the time he/she starts feeling sleepy, often until 11 pm or later. Based on that bedtime, teens should sleep until about 8 am. This is problematic because at least 40 percent of U.S. public High schools open before 8 am, according to the U.S. Department of Education. So how can children and teen athletes get enough sleep, given that their internal clocks aren’t cooperating?

Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory has been following sleep patterns and athletic performance of Stanford athletes for years (2007, 2008, 2009). Her research continues to show that getting more sleep leads to better sports performance for all types of athletes. Getting up to 10 hours of sleep athletes ran faster sprints, had more accurate tennis shots, swimmers and basketball players improved their performance, mood, and alertness. However, athletes can easily fail to get regular, consistent hours of sleep. This lack of sleep, so-called ‘sleep debt,’ appears to have a negative effect on sports performance, as well as cognitive function, mood, and reaction time. Much of this can be avoided by making regular sleep the same priority as practicing the sport and eating correctly.



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