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Eat. Train. Sleep. Repeat.

Athletes are always looking for something that is going to give them the competitive edge. But what if the most important performance enhancer could be found in your bedroom? The study of sleep and its importance in athletic performance has become of paramount importance to National and NHL teams alike. Teams have begun to realize that perhaps the key to maximizing athletic performance starts the night before the game.

Stanford University’s Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine has been at the forefront of research in the area of sleep and athletic performance. Through their studies with numerous collegiate teams, it has become evident that extended sleep results in significant improvements in “critical game day skills” such as reaction time, shooting accuracy, speed and resistance to fatigue. On the flip side, sleep deficiencies can negatively impact sport performance. A study looking at 55 NFL players found that players who reported higher levels of sleep deficiency, were at a lower likelihood of remaining with the team that drafted them. Lack of sleep has also been found to increase the risk of injury in teenage student athletes.

So what benefits does sleep provide to the elite athlete?

  • Sleep is crucial in the ability to perform cognitive tasks both on and off the field. Sleep plays a huge role in the cognitive abilities such as memory, learning and reaction time. Even one night of disrupted sleep can impact reaction time scores the following training session.

  • Sleep promotes muscle recovery. As athletes, we put our bodies through hell trying to become stronger and faster. While we sleep, muscle recovery is allowed to occur through cell regeneration and protein synthesis.

  • Sleep is a mood moderator. When you are well rested, you have a better ability to handle stress and anxiety, which can have an impact on perceived fatigue.

So how can you make sure you are getting the maximum benefits out of your sleep?

  • Keep a sleep schedule. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Creating  a set sleep routine, helps to modulate your sleep/wake cycle helping you to fall asleep easier and wake up feeling refreshed.

  • Power down your electronics at least an hour before bed. Televisions, cell phones and computers emit blue light, which has a similar effect on the brain as daylight. This tricks the mind into thinking that it is still daytime, ultimately shutting down melatonin secretion, the hormone responsible for inducing sleepiness.

  • Keep the room cool. A reduction in body temperature is a keep part of the sleep initiation and maintenance process. Try to keep the room temperature in your bedroom between 15 and 20 degrees celsius to help the body find its optimal sleep temperature.

  • Sleep should come within 15-20 mins of getting into bed. If you are struggling falling asleep for more than 30 mins, get up and stretch or read, trying to take your mind off things that are inhibiting your mind from falling asleep.

Sleep is essential for all bodily functioning and is paramount for optimizing athletic performance. Athletes should get at least 8 hours of sleep, with greater benefits coming from as much as 10 hours. Are you prioritizing your sleep routine? Remember, a lack of sleep, makes you weak! 

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