Lights Out: Why grabbing adequate amounts of shut-eye is absolutely essential to your fitness goals

The essential components of Elite Athlete Training can be categorized into 5 topics – Sleep, Nutrition, Mental Preparation, Conditioning and Hydration. We are starting the series of articles with relation to Elite Athlete Training with a discussion on the importance of the quality and quantity of Sleep for better performance.

Athlete Prep

The essential components of Athlete Training

Performance during training is not only dependent on how active we are but also on various passive activities before training. Doing that week-in and week-out can sometimes place tremendous stress and pressure on our bodies and cause a burn-out.

Getting enough sleep is crucial to maintain your body clock and optimise performance

Burn-outs can leave you feeling less motivated, depressed and can lead to overall health problems. If that wasn’t enough, a lack of sleep among athletes has also been linked to lower glycogen stores which are required for energy, shorter exhaustion times and impaired anaerobic recovery. According to an article in the American college of sports medicine, it could also result in shorter sprint times and reduced speed among runners and sprinters. A far more eye-opening finding was published in 2016 in the Journal of Sports Sciences that said that 1 out of 4 professional athletes suffer from a kind of sleeping disorder!

Burn-outs are a serious issue among top-athletes and can leave you feeling demotivated

What defines ‘quality’ sleep?

On an average, a normal human being sleeps for about 6-8 hours a day. However, that is not nearly enough for a professional performer as an optimal body recovery time closer to 9 hours is now the norm. This is mainly due to the fact that there are several stages in the sleep-cycle itself, with the most important one being REM or ‘Rapid-eye movement’ deep sleep. It is at this stage that the hormones which promote muscular growth and repair are released. A study by the  London Sports Institute, Middlesex University, states that “Improving sleep quality reduces sleep latency and enhances transition through the sleep stages, promoting volume of REM sleep and therefore optimising recovery and wakefulness”

Also, it is not only the duration but also the quality of sleep which is an important factor to recognize. Try some of the following techniques to ensure good quality sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.
  2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  3. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
  4. Blue-light exposure from electronic devices can affect the sleep cycle abnormally by inducing a kind of ‘digital insomnia’ (where you keep peering into the phone), so make sure you have no gadgets around.
  5. If you love your coffee then make sure you consume it at least seven hours prior to your bedtime since caffeine takes 6-7 hours to flush out of your system completely.
  6. Exercise is great, but not too late in the day
  7. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night

Simple steps such as these also help you to develop a strong circadian rhythm and help to settle the body clock, thus reducing overall stress. This will help you stay focused, stay refreshed and helps you maintain that explosive energy and motivation day-in day-out.