Whether you’re looking to increase your bench press max or up your free throw percentage, you need sleep just like Steph Curry does. It isn’t a luxury. It’s a crucial part of your body’s process of building, strengthening, and healing itself. And, science has shown that sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and improved athletic performance. The Sports Techie community blog wants to help you sleep better, feel more rested and perform at peak levels.
Muscle Recovery Requires Sleep
Strenuous exercise causes tiny micro-tears in the muscle tissue. Any good training regimen includes rest periods that are fundamental to working with your body’s natural recovery system. However, the majority of muscle recovery actually takes place while you sleep.
Sleep can be broken down into five distinct stages based on brain activity and eye movement. It’s during the first of the deep sleep stages, when brain and eye activity slow considerably, that human growth hormone (GH) gets released. Once released, GH stimulates muscle growth and repair. The micro-tears fill with muscle tissue, increasing muscle mass and improving muscle tone.
Changes in your normal sleep cycle can change how GH is released and slow down the recovery process. For example, if you only get five hours of sleep, the body doesn’t spend enough time in recovery mode. It’s been found that going to bed too late can alter how and when GH is released, again, slowing the recovery process. You need that consistent seven hours for the body to fully work and heal.
Reduce Injury and Improve Performance
You need sleep to recover, but no matter your sport, you need it to enhance your athletic performance too. Members of a Stanford University men’s basketball team participated in a study in which sleep time was extended from eight to ten hours. The athletes’ performances noticeably improved. For example, their sprint times went down by half a second and both free throw and three-point field goal percentages increased by over nine percent.
Studies exploring the strength of college weightlifters and anaerobic power with cyclists have found that lack of sleep reduces strength and oxygen levels. The average adult doesn’t need ten hours of sleep like an elite athlete. But they do need a consistent seven to nine hours.
Building Better, Healthier Sleep Habits
If you have trouble sleeping, you might need to be more aggressive with your sleep-related habits. Be patient. Like any new skill you’re learning in the gym, new sleep habits take time, effort, and consistency.
- Treat the Bedroom Like a Sanctuary: The bedroom shouldn’t be a multipurpose space. If your home gym or office is in the corner, the brain can get conflicting signals at bedtime. And, be sure to take a good look at your mattress. If you’re sleeping in a divet, it’s time for a model that supports your weight and sleep style.
- Manage Screen Time: If you’re catching the highlight reel late at night, you could be dooming your sleep cycle. TV’s, laptops, and smartphones can all emit a blue spectrum light that suppresses sleep hormones. Some devices have a night mode that changes the light spectrum, but with others, you’re better off shutting them down two to three hours before bed.
- Hit the Pillow on Time: Consistency is your friend. Going to bed at the same time every night allows the brain to predict your schedule and regulate the release of sleep hormones. The more consistent you are, the more readily your body responds.
- Rely On a Routine: Training requires repetitive action to build muscle memory and good technique, and so does sleep. Nightly routines prep mind and body for the next step—rest. Build a solid routine that includes activities that reduce stress like a warm shower, reading a book, or listening to low key music.
New habits take time to develop, but better sleep is worth it. Your ability to improve and take your workouts or game to the next level relies on it. So shut the lights out early, and make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to get at least seven hours of high-quality sleep.
Sports Techie, alcohol and caffeine also affect sleep quality.
Do not kid yourself by believing otherwise. It can take up to nine hours for caffeinated coffee, tea and energy drinks to work through your body so make sure and factor that in as necessary. Beer, wine and hard liquor also disrupt your sleep cycle in negative ways making it best to avoid consuming alcoholic drinks when training for sport, during medical rehab and especially before a game.
Sleep well my friends!
See ya later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!
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