Here’s How Sleep Affects Athletic Performance

·6-min read
PHOTO: Evolve MMA
PHOTO: Evolve MMA

Have you ever felt sluggish during a workout? We’ve all been there. Avoiding this situation is something we have total control over. Sometimes, improving your athletic performance may be as simple as just getting more rest.

Athletes need a specific amount of energy and calories to power their bodies to perform at a certain level. In addition to this, athletes also need enough sleep. Intense physical activity puts a lot of strain on the muscles, and the body is supposed to heal itself during sleep.

Sleep not only helps the body to recover, but it also ensures that you can put forth a good performance in any physical task. Most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and this is just for regular function. Performing athletes should target getting at least 10 hours of sleep to ensure optimal performance and ample recovery.

Sleep, no doubt, boosts athletic performance in a variety of ways.

First off, athletic performance significantly improves with sufficient rest. Athletes who get ample sleep are quicker, more focused, more accurate, and have a faster response.

Sleep is important for everyone, but is especially crucial to athletes. Let’s check out a few ways sleep can help make you a better athlete, and ensure you are at your best in training and in competition.

Today, Evolve Daily shares seven ways sleep affects athletic performance.

1) Maintain your speed and quickness

Athletes who log an extra two hours of shut-eye every night can boost their speed by as much as five percent, studies show. Furthermore, they become much more accurate and focused. Getting enough sleep means your reaction time and reflexes are much quicker, both of which are essential to athletic performance.

For athletes of any sport, whether it’s basketball, football, rugby, or even martial arts, speed and quickness are both very important. In competition, it can mean the difference between victory and defeat. So make sure your body is getting enough rest, and you should be confident in your quickness.

2) Maintain the level of intensity

Athletes getting enough sleep at night are more likely to be able to sustain intense training sessions and get the most out of their workouts. Whether it’s running the deliberate pace of a marathon, or executing the explosive movements like in weight lifting, you’ll have more energy to complete your physical tasks.

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Maintaining a certain level of intensity both in training and in competition is so important to athletic performance. With enough sleep, you can go hard every single day, and your muscles will recover regardless. Don’t sleep, and you will definitely feel lethargic in the gym.

3) Empower your mind

PHOTO: Evolve MMA
PHOTO: Evolve MMA

Mental fortitude is extremely important to athletic performance. Most sports are not only physical but intensely mental. Training and competition both require mental fortitude as well as physical strength. Getting enough sleep will ensure you satisfy both areas.

The reason behind this is well-rested athletes obtain a boost in alertness and focus, both of which are key to good performance. Sleep refreshes and recharges the mind. With enough sleep, you’ll be sharper and able to process information much quicker than if you were sleep-deprived. We can’t stress enough the role sleep plays in having the mental strength to operate your body at a high level.

4) Improve your coordination

Coordination is a very important part of athletic performance. The ability of a human being to piece together the mental and physical aspects of their body is essential. Things like motor skills and muscle memory are greatly improved with enough sleep.

Rest and recovery are vital to improving mind-body coordination. Whether you want to master the perfect roundhouse kick in Muay Thai class or store that basketball killer crossover dribble into your muscle memory, getting enough sleep will help your body coordinate those movements.

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If you’re well-rested and recovered every day, your body will operate at optimal capacity and it will no doubt boost your coordination.

5) Improves aerobic capacity

Insufficient sleep causes fatigue, and even a minuscule trace of fatigue will negatively impact your athletic performance in both training and competition. Fatigue also opens your mind to thoughts of self-doubt and thoughts of quitting.

Nobody likes the feeling of being tired, especially during a workout. That’s when your body feels super heavy, and it’s hard to move, let alone perform certain exercises. Sleep will improve your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular endurance.

You can get to a certain level of intensity quicker and maintain that level much longer. Getting the right amount of sleep each night has a positive impact on your aerobic capacity.

6) Allows muscle recovery

PHOTO: Evolve MMA
PHOTO: Evolve MMA

While you’re sleeping, both your muscles and central nervous system are in recovery mode. All of the hard work you put in the day before pays off when your body is in recharge mode. Muscles are optimizing contraction and response time, and working on improving things like pain management and malleability. These are all essential to good athletic performance.

In addition, sleep is usually when your muscles recover, and your body produces HGH (Human Growth Hormone), which is necessary for muscle growth.

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Late, great NBA legend Kobe Bryant was known to train like a beast in the gym. But for years, he had not given sleep and recovery enough attention. Once he sought the advice from a sleep coach, and got enough rest, his on-court performances instantly improved.

7) Relieves stress

Whether it’s mental or physical stress, stress has a negative impact on athletic performance. Lack of sleep causes stress, which has a significant effect on an athlete’s mental state and mood.

Having a positive mindset in both training and competition is so important, it cannot be overstated. Lowering stress levels is just as important in daily life as it is in athletic performance. Athletes who get enough sleep are less likely to be stressed, and instead can more easily produce endorphins with every workout.

Sleep deprivation is directly linked to increased levels of cortisol, the hormone that causes stress, according to studies.

This article, "Here’s How Sleep Affects Athletic Performance", originally appeared on Evolve MMA, Asia’s No. 1 martial arts organisation.

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