How Sleep Affects Sport Performance and Fat Loss:
By Meghan Fenton, CSF Intern
Sleeping is a part of the everyday life cycle and has a host of benefits if the proper amount is achieved, which should be typically around 8 hours. When you’re sleeping your brain prepares for the next day by processing the information that was received from the previous day and creates new neurological pathways to further process and remember this information. Sleep is shown to help with creativity, problem solving, being able to pay attention, and decision making. Enough sleep keeps you mentally and emotionally balanced, however, sleep also plays a very important role in your physical health. Sleep helps repair and heal the heart, its vessels, and muscles. From a nutritional standpoint, sleep also helps keep your hunger hormones in check. Athletes participating in a sport or adults trying to lose body fat can benefit from getting a full night’s sleep. On the other hand, they can stall their progress and subject their bodies to additional risks when sleep is cut short.
How a Good Night’s Rest Benefits Sport Performance and Fat Loss
A good night’s rest is considered around 8 hours of sleep when the majority of the time is spent in deep sleep or REM (Rapid eye movement). There are different phases of sleep the body goes through. Throughout the night your body fluctuates between these phases. If too much time is spent in a low quality light sleep then the body will not be well rested. From an athletic perspective, during REM sleep, mental recovery takes place, learning, and skill development occur. Many don’t realize the mental stress sport has on the body, not to mention the mental stress of school and family. A good night sleep will help combat this mental fatigue.Deep sleep also allows for physical recovery and growth to take place in muscle and bone.
Sleep is just as important for adults trying to lose weight as it helps maintain proper levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin. These two hormones play an active role in weight loss and weight gain. Leptin is the hormone that tells you when your body is full whereas ghrelin is the hormone that signals when you are hungry. High quality sleep will keep ghrelin levels lower putting your body in a better position to lose weight. Studies have shown that adults who sleep less become restless and eat more throughout the day then those who have consistent REM sleep of at least 8 hours per day.
Negative Effects Sleep Deprivation Has On Sport Performance and Fat Loss
Sleep deprivation can be defined as getting less than six hours of sleep a night for several nights in a row or going a long period of time (one to two days) without any sleep. Both of these instances of sleep deprivation lead to similar negative effects on sport performance and Fat loss. Athletes who burn the candle at both ends and don’t get enough sleep can see decreases in strength, power, sprint speed, endurance, motivation, and immune function. There is also an increase in the stress hormone cortisol when not enough quality sleep is achieved. Too much cortisol can have many negative effects on the body. Sleep deprivation can also cause decreased accuracy in shooting in sports such as soccer, hockey, or basketball. From a fat loss perspective, the hormone ghrelin, that signals we’re hungry and lets eat, will be more prevalent the following day. Leptin on the other hand, which tells us we’re full, will be less prevalent.
Tricks to Improve Sleep Quality
Many people know that sleep is important, but might not know how to implement good habits. Here are a few steps you can take to help improve your overall sleep quality and length of time spent sleeping.
Make sure there are no lights on in your bedroom. Even the smallest light can affect your sleep and can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
30-60 minutes before you plan on sleeping, stop using electronic devices such as: watching TV and using your cell phone or computer or tablet to read. These devices emit bright light directly into your eyes which will cause a dip in melatonin right before sleep. By taking a break from these devices before sleep, it will cause your melatonin levels to increase which will make it easier to fall asleep faster.
Have a sleep routine and stick to it. Going to sleep and waking up around the same time each day will allow your body to become accustomed to a routine.
Look at what you are eating before you go to sleep. Eating foods high in sugars and fat will keep the body awake while eating low glycemic carbohydrates between 1 and 4 hours before bed can help you fall asleep faster and increase deep sleep.
Sleep on this:
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are very important for general health, sport performance and fat loss, those good intensions may be compromised if you are consistently getting less than 8 hours of sleep. Sleep plays a major role in recovery , keeps hormone levels in check which will put the body in a more optimal level to lose fat and perform at an optimal level. Next time you’re preparing for a big game, practice, workout or a fat loss journey think about how to alter your sleep schedule to maximize your results.
In the next series we will examine the strategies to combat fatigue. Is caffeine really beneficial and how much is too much.