5 Ways Sleep Helps You Be A Better Athlete


Featured guest post by Tuck—a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources.

Doctors recommend you get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, but more than 35 percent of Americans do not get a good night’s sleep, according to the CDC.

One study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine that looked at sleep for athletes hypothesized that it is because sleep is placed on a low priority level and that athletes have a lack of awareness of how sleep helps to optimize athletic performance.

It doesn’t help that we live in a world that expects us to be on and available at all times.

What you, as an athlete, might not realize is that sleep could be the most vital part of your exercise routine. Here are five ways that sleep helps your exercise be effective.

Repair Muscles

Getting deep sleep during your REM cycle helps your muscles to repair themselves after you work out. The proteins in your muscles degrade when you work out, but your anabolic hormones help to restore your muscles while you sleep.  It’s been found that if you don’t get enough sleep, those proteins are more likely to continue degrading, and your catabolic hormones are more likely to help them do so.

Build Muscle Tone

As you get older, building muscle becomes more challenging. The number of growth hormones that are produced decreases by two to three times its former rate. It also gets harder to sleep as you get older, which compounds the issue. If you’re above the age of 30 and trying to build muscle mass, you’ll want to aim for a long nap (90 minutes) during the day to help with muscle growth.

Perform Better

Getting a good night’s sleep will also help you to perform better at whatever task you set your mind to.

A 2011 study of basketball players found that after 5 to 7 weeks of getting a full night’s sleep, players saw significant improvements in their athletic performance and reaction time.

The players’ free throws and three-pointers were more successful by 9 percent, and their sprint times improved by 0.7 seconds. They also had a more accurate, positive perception of themselves

Maintain a Healthy Weight

A study in PLOS One found that lack of sleep can add an inch to your waist, slow down your metabolism and lead you to a higher body mass index. It can also lead to a higher risk of obesity and hypertension.

Sleeping poorly can also lead to overeating, and eating foods that are not conducive to building muscle. It also makes it harder for you to lose that weight.

Fight Disease

Sleep deprivation may raise the levels of inflammation in your coronary arteries, leading to a higher risk of heart disease.

If you find yourself unable to sleep regularly, there may be an underlying cause, such as snoring, which may be a symptom of a disorder. If you are concerned that there might be an underlying cause, talk to your doctor about possibly completing a sleep study.