Tag: Sleep

School has started. Days are getting shorter and darker. As an athlete, are you focusing enough on sleep this time of year? Or at any time of the year?

Sleep is essential for our body’s regulation of internal processes, maintenance, and rhythms. It is also essential for muscle repair and vital organ function and is a key ingredient that influences mental health and resilience. Not getting enough sleep has been associated with a decreased ability to concentrate, perform, and make decisions, higher levels of irritability, and increased cortisol levels (stress hormone that damages our bodies when we are exposed to it over a long period of time), for starters. Sleep sounds important, doesn’t it? It is. As the research on sleep and its effects on the human body and mind has advanced, the old adage of, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” begins to hold less and less weight. In fact, people who sleep a healthy amount every night are found to live longer and healthier lives than those who are routinely sleep deprived.

Sleep effects our everyday functioning and performance. Although your performance might not always suffer if you’ve had just a few bad nights of sleep, performers have been found to experience a 10-30% increase in performance due to establishing a better sleep schedule. Imagine the impacts a regular and healthy sleep routine can have not only on yourself, but your players or teammates!

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you may not even know how much it is affecting you because the more impaired you become with too little sleep, the less you are able to recognize how impaired you are. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may be likely to report that you’re ok and you can survive on little sleep, but pay attention to others’ observations of you. Sleep deficits are cumulative, so if people are saying you are not performing like you typically do or appear tired all the time, it may be a good time to buff up your sleep hygiene.

College student-athletes have the most sleep disturbance of any group of individuals and people tend to over report and think they sleep more than they actually do. If you’re sleeping at least 7- 9 hours a night and waking up feeling alert and refreshed, you might need to add some more sleep to your routine. Some factors to consider that can help you with your sleep include buying a white noise maker to cancel out loud and distracting noises, using blue light blocking glasses to block daytime signals to your brain (that may be coming from devices such as your cell phone, tablet device, or computer), or meditating at bedtime. Also, be aware that drinking caffeine later in the day may affect your body as well, as it is still in your system for approximately 4-6 hours after consumption.



Ask anyone how many hours of sleep, on average, they get per night. What do they get? Somewhere between 5-7, if you’re lucky.

Then ask a doctor how many hours of sleep, on average, you should be getting per night. What’s their answer? Somewhere around 8, but with a push towards getting somewhere closer to 10.

So then ask anyone what their response to that recommendation is. What’s that going to look like? Something along the lines of “Yeah, right” but probably with some more expletives worked in. But then what if I told you that there’s some new research happening at Harvard that might end insomnia forever, and make it so everyone could get the sleep they need? Now we’re talking, right?

Sure enough, the work of Dr. Patrick Fuller is maybe getting us to exactly that point. Dr. Fuller is working on sleep medication to help ensure full, rich nights of sleep. And not the ‘full night’s sleep’ that current sleep medication provides that leaves you groggy upon waking up or is indefinite in the time you’ll be able to wake up–there is the potential for this medication to help cure insomnia outright, some researchers believe.

So naturally the question becomes: How? Fuller is using research that dates all the way back to 1950’s, changing the way that sleep medication affects the brainstem. By counteracting the brainstem’s traditional function of “wake-promoting,” Fuller and his team are helping to make sleep come more automatically, make it deeper, and most importantly make it actually restful. According to the researchers, advancements on this research could even ultimately induce sleep. Not just deep and rejuvenating sleep, but deep and rejuvenating sleep whenever you want or need it. Cheers to you, Dr. Fuller.

But so what does this mean for athletics and sport psychology? The lives of athletes are busy; when you’re not training, studying film, eating, maintaining diet and exercise logs, or completing rehabilitation and recovery exercises, chances are you’ve still got lots left to do that isn’t directly involved with being an athlete. There’s a nearly constant struggle of time-management, and for most athletes the thing is sacrificed is the same: sleep. This lack of sleep, though, is all sorts of detrimental to physical performance. To expect an athlete to be at their best, when operating on a night of no sleep is the equivalent of operating with a BAC of .10 or higher, is absurd. And while Dr. Fuller didn’t necessarily have athletes specifically in mind while he conducted his research, he’s still doing a world of good for athletes all over.

Get sleep when you can get it; ample hours of rest can be one of the most important things for healthy functioning. But in a world where it’s not always feasible to get your doctor-recommended 8 hours of sleep, Dr. Fuller might have the next best thing.

Click here to read more about Dr. Fuller’s research.

In today’s fast-paced world, we’re constantly connected…to everything.  Teens and pre-teens are all too aware of the pressures and tasks they face on a daily basis: social activities, school, homework, extra curricular activities, sports–the list goes on.  However, amidst all the chaos, what’s often forgotten is the importance of sleep and how much our bodies benefit from a good night’s rest.

In a 2012 study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition, researchers found that the hours of sleep per night was significantly associated with the likelihood of injury.  Additionally, it was found that athletes in higher grade levels had greater likelihood of injury.  “While other studies have shown that lack of sleep can affect cognitive skills and fine motor skills, nobody has really looked at this subject in terms of the adolescent athletic population,” said study author Matthew Milewski, MD.

So what does all this mean?  It means that you probably need to get more sleep. If you’re concerned about your game and performance (or if you’ve noticed it’s not as great lately), make sure that you’re getting enough rest–it’s one of the best things that you can do for yourself without having to do any work, other than putting on your pajamas.

Read the full article here.