One in three adults in America are sleep deprived, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On the one hand, many aren’t getting the required seven hours of sleep a night. On the other hand, many who are meeting their nightly quota of zzzs aren’t enjoying good sleep quality.
If you are a fitness buff, poor sleep can affect your performance in many ways. Discover why sleep should be a greater priority in your life, and harness its power to help you achieve your fitness goals.
The Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Performance
Sleep deprivation can make you less efficient at your chosen sport or workout routine because it decreases your reaction time, affects your mood, and impairs your motor and cognitive performance.
Sleep deprivation can also affect your performance in the long term, since it increases the likelihood of weight gain, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Sleep deprivation also leads you to take risks that can result in a greater likelihood of accidents. If you are into motor sports, take special note. Sleep deprivation is the greatest cause of preventable accidents – more so than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Sleep and HGH
If you are sleeping enough hours but you feel tired when you wake up or you have been performing less than optimally at the gym, it could mean your sleep quality is poor.
Good sleep quality involves falling asleep within half an hour of getting into bed, and waking up no more than once at night.
If you are constantly tossing and turning, it means you may not be making your way through all the key sleep cycles – including the ‘deep sleep’ stage, when the body produces most Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This hormone is key for muscle and tissue formation.
Is Sleep Apnea the Problem?
Bodybuilders who notice they have hit a plateau should consider having a sleep test to see if sleep apnea (temporary and repeated interruption of breathing) or snoring are hampering their sleep quality.
They should also try to create a more comfortable room, using blackout curtains and soundproofing to keep the room dark and quiet.
Your choice of bed is also crucial. As noted by Bedtester (https://bedtester.com/), sleeping well involves finding a mattress that is the right firmness for your sleeping position.
Side sleepers, for instance, benefit from memory latex foam mattresses, which provide support to all major pressure points. Back and tummy sleepers, meanwhile, will want a firmer mattress to avoid back pain.
Your bedroom should also be on the cool side, since body temperature naturally drops when it is time to sleep, and heat can boost alertness.
The Effect of Sleep on Mental Health
Any serious athlete knows that staying at the top of their game is as much a mental as it is a physical pursuit.
Studies have shown that insomnia is a major predictor of depression. A study by Dinges et al found that sleeping for around five hours a night for seven nights straight resulted in powerful impairments of mental well-being, including day sleepiness, extreme tiredness, confusion, stress, and disturbed mood.
In other studies (Killgore et al), subjects who were sleep deprived show confusion, loss of vigor, and lower frustration tolerance.
The Bottom Line
To stay at the top of your game at the gym or in your chosen sport, good rest is key. Aim to achieve at least seven or eight hours a night, and make sure that when you wake up, you feel re-energized – otherwise, sleep apnea might be a problem. Create a restful bedroom that is conducive to good sleep and consider relaxation exercises before you sleep, to ensure stress doesn’t cause you to toss and turn at night.