It is a pleasure to be able to talk to you about sleep and performance, as well as life in general because 1/3 of life we spend sleeping, and the other 2/3 are influenced by how we slept!
As a sleep researcher for 30 years, I've come to believe that sleep is a magic ingredient for boosting performance levels in even the most trained professional athletes, especially people in everyday life. With the right amount of sleep, a number of important things happen: glucose metabolism increases, resulting in more energy; cortisol levels decrease, reducing stress; growth hormone levels increase, promoting muscle and bone development; and cognition, reaction time, coordination, and recovery speed improve.
Here's a quick rundown of the latest research from the world of sport & performance that can be applied to our lives:
- A study of a Pac-10 men's basketball team found significant improvement in several key areas after the players had a regular sleep schedule of at least 10 hours a night for 5-7 weeks. Specifically, there was a 9% increase in free throw conversions, a 9.2% increase in three-point conversions, faster sprint intervals and reaction times, and an increase in overall physical and mental health.
- The researchers then conducted a follow-up study with the Stanford women's tennis team, finding that 10 hours of sleep a night for five weeks resulted in faster sprint times, a 42 percent increase in hitting accuracy, and better overall performance.
- A study of Major League Baseball recruits found that sleep deprived were less likely to make the team than their well-rested counterparts. The dropout rate for all recruits studied was 37.5 percent, compared with 57 percent for the sleepy ones.
- In the National Football League, drowsiness also predicted player draft value. The players with the highest measures of sleepiness had just a 38.5% chance of remaining in the original squad, while their more rested counterparts had a 56.3% chance of making it.
- A study of MLB batting averages showed that a player's biological clock has a significant impact on performance. When an athlete is naturally in the most alert phase of their sleep-wake cycle, they strike best.
- Sleep extension allows swimmers to get a 17% improvement in reaction times from the starting block.
- In another study involving the body's internal clock and natural sleep-wake cycle, the timing of football matches was found to influence a team's likelihood of winning. Strength, flexibility and reaction time appear to peak later in the day, making the best time for athletic performance between 6-9pm.
- Research has shown that sleep deprivation is responsible for 90% of overtraining injuries. During certain stages of sleep, the body regenerates damaged tissue and replenishes depleted energy reserves. It was clear that the injured athletes had ramped up the intensity of their workouts too quickly without fully recovering.
- Sleep deprivation slows glucose metabolism by 40%. This results in significantly less energy being available to an athlete. Lack of sleep also reduces the production of human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a key role in tissue repair and muscle recovery.
- Slow wave or deep sleep plays a primary role in recovery from physical exhaustion. Runners who were studied before and after a marathon stayed in deep sleep the night after the race significantly longer than the night before. This suggests that the body uses slow wave sleep as a recovery period related to exercise and athletic performance.
- Stanford University notes that it is no coincidence that athletes such as Lebron James, Michelle Wie, Roger Federer and Usain Bolt sleep at least ten hours between training and playing. Advise players to get good sleep before game day, take a 20-minute nap before the game, and train during the time of day you'll be competing.
As you can see, just a few simple adjustments to sleep patterns have produced remarkable results, it is evident that GOOD SLEEP improves and lengthens life!