If you really want to hack your performance gains then get to bed. Sleep is the ultimate performance booster for literally all aspects from strength and endurance gains, faster reaction times, improved mood, better skills, faster recovery and a stronger immune system.
Here’s some of the good stuff happening during a good nights sleep:
Cognition, skill acquisition and learning development
During sleep your brain has an opportunity to sort through memories and consolidate learning. For athletes this includes new skills and drills – like refining your swim technique, or practicing descending and bike cornering and handling skills. Sleep is when those movement patterns really ingrain, meaning your progression in learning these new skills is faster.
Hormone production, growth and strength gains
During sleep key hormones flood your body – not just melatonin which makes you sleepy and regulates sleep cycles, but other hormones like growth hormone. You might be resting, but your muscles and other tissues are busy growing, repairing and strengthening. In other words if you’re looking to make gains in the gym sleep is just as critical as the workout and quality nutrition plan. For growing bodies, sleep and this window of hormone production is crucial for optimising growth and development potential.
Metabolism and body composition
Even one night of missed or poor sleep can have adverse effects on blood sugar control and metabolism. And lack of sleep is directly correlated with weight gain. One of the mistakes frequently made by athletes looking to lose body fat, is to train more hours and cut into sleep time - you might want to rethink that strategy if that sounds like you.
Cardiac health and function is supported
Heart health is obviously important for all of us, but particularly for endurance athletes max-ing out efforts across multiple long and/or intense workouts. The cardiac system needs a good opportunity to recover and repair. This is assisted by the nervous system which relaxes and resets overnight during sleep.
Stress lowered and inflammation is reduced
Cortisol also known as the stress hormone lowers during the night (if you are asleep that is). Lowered cortisol facilitates a reduction in inflammation levels, in turn allowing for tissue repair and recovery.
Immune system fires up
While you are fast asleep, your immune system is busy releasing fighter-proteins called cytokines to fight off infection, inflammation and trauma. Most athletes will have seen the adverse effects of too little sleep, and the resultant effect of becoming run down or sick.
So next time you think you’re too busy for sleep, you might want to reconsider. Sleep really does optimise all aspects of health and allows for recovery and improved energy levels, meaning you get to train better and feel better.