The Science Of Sleep
Oxygen Magazine Australia|Issue 100

The secret to lasting weight loss and optimal performance could be as close as the bedroom.

Lara Mcglashan, MFA, CPT

HOW DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT?

That simple question can make or break your day. When you get a good night’s sleep, you feel like you can take on the world, and getting your fair share means enjoying a host of energising benefits, including improved memory and creativity, decreased inflammation and improved immune function. But of particular note for athletes is the effect of sleep on weight loss, performance and recovery, and more and more research indicates that the hours you sleep are as important — if not more so — than the time you spend training.

“Sleep is foundational and, in my opinion, is even a little more important on the scale than things like nutrition and hydration,” says Dr. W. Christopher Winter, Ph.D., president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, pro sports team consultant and author of The Sleep Solution (Penguin Random House, April 2017). “Sleep has its fingers in everything from mood to mental capacity to physical well-being. And some studies show that just a couple of days of restricted sleep — four to five hours — result in a measurable reduction in performance.”

DETRIMENTAL DEFICIT

Sleep deficit does a number of egregious things to your physical performance, causing a decrease in max power, velocity and force, slower reaction times and greater perceived work effort. Surprisingly, however, these effects are not completely because of physiological impairment but rather from a decrease in cognitive ability and function as a result of that deprivation. Case in point: a 30-year study of National Football League game data indicates that teams who travelled across three time zones to play night games were 67 per cent more likely to lose, even when the point spread was factored in.

Since sleep debt negatively impacts an athlete’s mood, drive and fatigue level, the sports and skills that require accuracy and focus will be those most impacted. “The scientific evidence indicates pretty clearly that sleep loss or disruption causes slower reaction times and diminishes both cognitive and emotional capacity,” says Dr Benjamin Smarr, Ph.D., a Reverie sleep research expert at the University of California, Berkeley. “Even if your muscles are ready to fire after sleep deprivation, if your self-doubt and ability to react are off-kilter, your performance is at risk.” Fatigue also can impair reaction time when playing a sport, potentially increasing your risk for injury.

“Athletes are constantly working on and improving their training and performance programs, but honestly, the secret weapon for success is sleep,” says Jack Dell’Accio, CEO and founder of Essentia mattresses. “Athletes push their bodies to the extreme, and the only time they really have to repair themselves is at night, during sleep.”

THE FAT FACTOR

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