"If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it. Sleep does all of those things."— Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, Dallas Maverick
You train hard. You eat healthy. You take supplements. But do you know what the number one thing for athletes really is? Sleep. That's right. It's the difference between a winner and loser. Usain Bolt, the first person in history to ever break both the 100m and 200m world records, and win 6 gold medals in sprinting, claims sleep is by far the most important part of his daily training regimen.
How important is sleep you may ask? After 72 hours, your body begins to shut down. Within 5 days you start to lose your mind, becoming delirious and having hallucinations. Then with in 7 days, to put it bluntly, you could collapse from exhaustion and die. I think it is safe to say, the body needs sleep.
Here are Some Key Statistics From Fatigue Science
- Tennis players get a 42% boost in hitting accuracy with adequate sleep as part of their daily routine.
- Split-second decision making skills are increased by 4.3% when sleep increases.
- An athlete's maximum bench press drops 20lbs after only 4 days on a restricted sleep schedule.
- Swiss professional tennis player, Roger Federer, gets 11 to 12 hours sleep per night
- 3 time NBC Champion Basketball Player, Lebron James gets 12 hours of sleep every night
- Basketball players demonstrated faster sprint times following sleep extensions to 10 hours a night. Their shooting accuracies improved, free throw percentage increasing by 9% and 3-point field goal increasing by 9.2%
According to the National Sleep Foundation or NSF, sleep is essential for everyone's health and well-being, and even more essential for athletes. Here are 4 areas where sleep has the greatest effect on athletic performance:
- Improving reaction times. It has been scientifically proven that depriving oneself of sleep can reduce reaction time by 300%. When martial artists are relying on their reaction time to avoid incoming punches and kicks, they can't spare even a second. Even just low levels of fatigue can cause reaction times to be equivalent to, or even surpass that of being legally drunk.
- Reduced Injuries. We just learned that sleep improves reaction time. Well, guess what happens when you don't get enough sleep? More injuries. Research has shown that the amount of injuries athletes got were directly correlated to the amount of hours they slept. Fight-earned injuries can cost a martial artist his career and the need to cease training for a long period of time or indefinitely. Coming back from injuries in a sport always set the athlete back some time and should be avoided and prevented at all costs.
- Overall Wellness. Bottom line. Sleep is needed for overall wellness. Lack of sleep greatly affects the body's immune system making athletes more prone to illnesses. Health issues and slow recovery times can often lead to missed fights and tournaments. Sleep is need to regenerate cells, repair tissues from the abuse of training and overall to keep health issues at a minimal.
- Cognitive Skills Improve. Motivation, focus, memory and learning are all important factors in learning martial arts, and they are all impaired by lack of sleep. With sleep deprivation the brain can not remember or absorb new material, forget learning and retaining those new forms your working on for that black belt!
How to Get a Good Night Sleep
If you find yourself unable to relax and achieve the great night's sleep that's so important in order for your body to fully recharge, here are a few pointers to help you out. According to the professionals in the sleep industry, there are quite a few good techniques you can incorporate into your days that a can lead you to having more fulfilling and rejuvenating nights of sleep.
- Keep your sleep and wake-up times consistent
- Do not consume caffeine in any form 4-6 hours before bedtime, and minimize your consumption in general even during the day.
- Quit smoking, especially if you are an athlete!!
- Avoid drinking alcohol before sleep
- Do not eat heavy meals late at night.
- Getting regular exercise is important, but that is not usually a problem for athletes
- Create a peaceful sleep environment. Avoid noise, lights and extreme temperatures, although there has been some evidence suggesting that the cold induces a deeper sleep.
- Make sure your bedtime and wake time reflect the adequate amount of hours you require.