Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Increase Your Sleep To Improve Your Performance

It’s a fact that high quality sleep improves performance. In 2008 a study was performed at Stanford University regarding the correlation between increased hours of sleep and improved performance. Ten healthy student athletes, from the men's and women's swimming teams respectively, were asked to maintain their normal amounts of sleep (between 5-8 hours per night) for two weeks and their performance (timed swims at their daily practices) was recorded. Then the athletes were asked to sleep 10 hours a night for 6 weeks and their corollary performances in practice were assessed after each regularly held swim practice. After obtaining extra sleep, the athletes swam a 15-meter meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds and increased kick strokes by 5.0 kicks. The swimmers obviously improved their reaction times and explosiveness significantly simply by sleeping more. All of these performance gains occurred in just 6 weeks and one would assume that the results would continue to improve over the course of an entire year of increased sleep.

These results elucidate the fact that athletes can benefit significantly from increased amounts of sleep. Although this study focuses solely on the importance of sleep among collegiate swimmers, the results are applicable to any and all athletes seeking peek performance. There have been other similar studies conducted with athletes from other sports providing very similar results.

Sleep is essential to keep the human body functioning and running at top speed. It is by far the most potent means of recovery and bodily restoration. While sleeping, muscle tissue heals, information is collated and stored throughout the day, and our immune system heals. The more we sleep--on a regular basis-- the better we feel and consequently the better we perform. Ten hours of sleep a night might seem excessive, but it should be a priority as an athlete to get as much sleep as possible.

Finals are rolling around at school and I have been staying up late studying and writing papers lately. Throughout this whole sleepless process I have maintained my training schedule and I have been seeing some extremely low levels of performance. Yesterday, I was testing my vertical leap on a basketball hoop in Sausalito and I could not touch the rim. I was barely tapping the rim last week, but yesterday it felt like my explosiveness was gone... I had nothing. I probably lost 2 inches on my vert simply by getting low quality sleep for about a week. That being said, sleep is immensely important to one's recovery and everyone should learn from my mistakes and moderate their amount of training during periods of time in which they know they will be getting less sleep (finals, deadlines, etc.)

This post is making me tired . . .good night.

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