Fitness Rx for Women
Sleep Nap Relaxation Bedtime Rest Night Insomnia Napping Stress Image Credit: Fitness Rx for Women
Sleep Nap Relaxation Bedtime Rest Night Insomnia Napping Stress Image Credit: Fitness Rx for Women

How Sleep Affects Health And Performance

Many of us don’t get enough sleep. But more and more research is showing that not only can lack of sleep affect athletic performance, but that it can also lead to health problems like weight gain and cardiovascular risks. Here’s a look at what the research tells us about the importance of sleep.

Lisa Steuer

PERFORMANCE AND WEIGHT GAIN

According to a report in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, studies have revealed the importance of sleep for athletes and performance, and the report recommends at least seven hours of sleep each night for athletes. The report states that even a 30-minute nap in the afternoon after four hours of sleep can improve alertness as well as mental and physical performance. In addition, napping has been associated with improved short term memory, improvements in reaction time and better performance for 20-meter sprints.

But in addition to improving performance, more sleep may mean less weight gain. A study published in the journal Sleep found that sleep deprived individuals are at greater risk of gaining weight. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, found that 14 sleep-deprived individuals consumed almost 1,000 calories in snacks in the early evening, compared to 600 calories when they got a full night’s sleep. The individuals also ate twice as much fat when they were sleep-deprived.

The 14 participants in the study spent several sessions sleeping in a laboratory. They had four nights of 8.5 hours of sleep and four nights of 4.5 hours of sleep. And while everyone differs in the amount of sleep they need each night to function, the researchers recruited individuals for the study who normally functioned on about eight hours of sleep so that


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