Alongside getting their diet right, getting sufficient rest is one of the most essential aspects of an athlete’s life. A question that interests a lot of fitness fans is how exactly does sleep relate to their training regimes.
Well, I will start off by telling you the good news, getting out of breath and a little sweaty every day does great things for how well you will sleep. Nothing helps someone drop off quickly and sleep soundly like being genuinely body tired when their head hits the pillow.
But why exactly do athletes need to sleep so much after putting in the hard hours on the track or in the gym? Read on below and I will attempt to break it on down for you.
The body repairs itself between workouts
You might be surprised to hear that it isn’t actually during the time spend in the gym, on the track or pounding the pavement, that builds your muscle. In reality, during these periods of activity you are actually doing the exact opposite, that is you’re tearing down muscle fibre. Your muscle fibre is then repaired and reinforced in the periods between workouts, that is when you’re at rest and most usually while you are snoring away.
This is a nutshell is why getting sufficient rest between training sessions is essential to any athlete’s performance. If you don’t give your body enough time to undergo these processes of repair and replenishment then chances are you will end up physically in a far worse condition that you would be if you weren’t doing any training at all.
The link between lack of rest and injury
The human body is a resilient thing but there are serious limits to how much strain it can handle before it begins to break. In simple terms attempting to do too much too quickly is bad for it. This is exactly why so many people get injured so quickly after joining the gym.
Researchers looking at performance amongst athletes have discovered that one of the most reliable predictors of injury is the amount of hours rest an individual got, or didn’t get, a night.
One study in particular reported that athletes who slept for less than 8 hours a night were considerably more likely to get injured than athletes that did.
The reason for this is quite simple. While we are at rest, and when we are asleep in particular, our body goes to work repairing itself from the punishment we have been putting it through. If we don’t allow it sufficient time to make these repairs then it begins to break.
Knowing that sleep is great for you and actually getting more of it are two very separate things. If you are an athlete who is struggling to catch sufficient shuteye check out what the skilled guys at the Sleep Advisor have to say about it.
Rest and performance
In addition to keeping healthy and injury free another vital reason for athletes to get sufficient rest is to ensure they stay top of their chosen game. The difference between sporting legends and also-rans is often amazingly small margins. The difference between a Olympic gold and finishing in 10th place is often little more than a hundredth of a second.
Whether it is a goalie trying to stop a penalty or a hundred metre runner responding to the firing pistol, all athletes rely on their reactions for success. When it’s tired the brain has significantly impaired cognitive performance, synapses become sluggish and our reactions suffer as a result.
The same is true for our motor functions. Fast twitch fibres suddenly become slightly less fast.
Think back to the last time you had a poor night’s sleep, I’ll bet it was a struggle even to decide what cereal to have for breakfast. Now imagine what impact that would have on your reaction times as an athlete. It isn’t exactly going to help any records to be broken.
If you don’t sleep, you won’t get a body like bodybuilder Connor Murphy, you’ll probably end up sickly and weak.
The importance of a sleep-filled training regime
So, if you are going to take anything away from this article it should be this. If you’re trying to find extra time in your day to fit in more training, sleep is definitely not something to be sacrificed.
In you should be doing the exact opposite, heading to bed earlier and staying tucked in longer. Speak to any top athlete and they will tell you that when they’re deep in a serious training program they will be increasing the amount of sleep proportionally. This will often mean augmenting the doctor-recommended eight hours a night and adding on top of that some well-timed post workout naps. All power to the power nap!
Well sports fans, there it is, the reason why athletes take getting enough rest and recovery after training very seriously. Now go get some post sweat sleep, your place on the podium demands it!