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The Effects of Sleep on Performance and Recovery

In a study recently performed by the CDC, more than one third of Americans are consistently getting less than the minimum recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. According to this study, lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. Less than optimal sleep duration and quality is also associated with impaired athletic performance and recovery.

Athletic performance and recovery are especially important to me as a student physical therapist and a strength and conditioning coach. Studies have shown that athletes that do not get the recommended amount of sleep have decreased motivation to exercise, and a faster time to exhaustion compared to athletes that did get adequate sleep. A study done on male college athletes revealed that just one night of sleep deprivation leads to significantly decreased reaction time the following day. In most sports having a faster reaction time than your opponent will give you a massive advantage. Being sleep deprived is also associated with cognitive dysfunction and mood swings that could be detrimental to an athlete’s performance.

In sleep deprived humans it has been shown that while the stress hormone cortisol is increased,

testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 are decreased. This creates an environment that is favorable for protein breakdown, which is the opposite of what athletes want when trying to build muscle.

Most people should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. If you are not getting this much sleep, or if you want to improve the quality of your sleep, follow these tips:

  1. Keep a consistent schedule of falling asleep and waking up - even on the weekends.

  2. Limit screen time 90 minutes before bed, as light from screens can impair natural melatonin release.

  3. Do not consume any caffeine within 8 hours of bed time.

  4. Limit all light in your room at night by using black out curtains and sleep masks.

  5. Do not consume alcohol before bed as it will reduce the amount of restful REM sleep you are able to achieve.

  6. If you didn’t listen to tip #2 and are using devices before bed, wear blue light blocking lenses like these.






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