People will almost always pin exercise and diet together when it comes to their training. This is because exercise is the calorie burning, muscle building element, and diet is the fuel that powers the proverbial engine; but what about sleep? Sleep is all too often underestimated and is a main element for becoming a better athlete.
There are many research studies that can back this up, and the evidence that highlights that sleep is an essential component of fitness is there for all to see. A study was published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Obesity which found that people who had fewer than six hours sleep were less likely to achieve weight loss than those who had between six and eight hours.
The study was carried out and based on the average adult, so, for competitive athletes, you should consider eight hours as the minimum level of slumber in their regime.
Athletes will be able to train for longer periods when they have enjoyed more high-quality sleep. A good example of this comes from Stanford University who funded a study that found better-quality, and longer periods of sleep helped their basketball team to achieve better performances during games.
Furthermore, if you had any doubt in your mind about staying in shape and sleep, one study confirmed a link between lower levels of sleep, increased body fat stores and a more intense threat of obesity.
So, sleep needs to be considered as a big cog in the training of the machine of an athlete, this much we have established. We’re also known that regularly taking part in training sessions will benefit your quality of sleep, and vice versa, Sleep.org confirms. As a result, you need to find the correct balance of all the two (sleep and exercise) to reach your goal of becoming a better athlete.
We’ve got some great pointers for you to read more about and use to further yourself, so why not see what you can do to take your athleticism to the next level?
Knowing How Hard to Train
As humans, we’re all different, therefore the answer to this is dependent on you individually. That being said, both the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association cite that you should be exercising for a minimum of least half an hour every day if you’re a healthy adult, and that is literally the lowest level.
There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do more than the RDA, and for high-end athletes, who are already put in greater volumes of work into their training, it can be tricky to find the ceiling and know when to allow for rest.
There’ve been plenty of examples of overtraining, some which you will probably know of, and a study from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows the downsides of indulging too much; there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”, which reaffirms this to prevent you from getting wrapped up in training without the recovery.
How Many Hours of Sleep Do Athletes Need?
When you’re dealing with sleep, as an average adult, the National Sleep Foundation states that you need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to function, maintain your positive mood, and remain healthy. But, as we touched on previously, this usually does not meet the requirements of a high-end athlete who will need to see eight as the lowest amount to function and train effectively.
This average depends entirely on you and how you feel after you wake up from a sleep. Your body is very complex and will give you the signs you need to determine how much sleep is enough.
How to Get Better Quality Sleep
It’s very important that you are comfortable when sleeping or you won’t achieve the optimum levels of sleep you need to clock up as an athlete, and as such, you might need to
• Research an alternative mattress
• Get Different Pillows
• Change Your Bed Linen
Or possibly all three, depending on your needs.
You can look to take measures that will enhance your brain. This is because your brain’s prone to wanting move into a state of rest every 16 hours after you’ve woken up. What’s more, it also has the capability to set your circadian rhythm (body clock) to the timing of your workouts.
For example, if you were to regularly get your training sessions in at 4pm and you head off to bed at 9pm, your brain trains itself to crave and prep for sleep roughly five hours after you’ve completed your exercise.
How Much Is Too Much Sleep?
We mentioned that there are pitfalls to overtraining, but you should be aware that oversleeping can also come with detrimental effects, new research has established. Obviously, you want to avoid both, so don’t be tempted to go too hard for too long while training, and don’t think those extended periods of sleep will offer benefits, or you’ll succumb to the ill effects. (What ill effects does oversleeping have? Go into more detail. Again provide value to the reader)
As we touched on when you’re really focused on staying in shape and continually being healthy, you need to have a definite emphasis on zones to stay in as far as maintaining sound slumber and solid training regimes are concerned.
Without a foundation and a limit, you can either become injured or endure bouts of insomnia, and both can disturb one another; not what you want as an athlete!
This isn’t an overnight process, and it can take time to take effect but it can be a very useful tool that you can utilize once your brain and body have adapted to your routine. Consequently, if you get good sleep, you’ll train well, make good decisions, and become fitter, faster and stronger!