The Importance of Sleep for Performance
Sleep plays an important role in maintaining our health and well-being. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults achieve seven to nine hours of sleep per night(1). Across the night, our brain moves through different stages of sleep including non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. Many important processes occur during the sleep cycle that allow us to recover from our prior time awake.
Poor quality sleep can disrupt the cycle and reduce the restorative value of sleep with negative consequences for our health.
WHY SLEEP IS IMPORTANT TO OVERALL HEALTH
Although the function of sleep is not known, its importance to our health is clear when looking at the effects of sleep loss(2). When we are sleep deprived, our cognition and emotional regulation can be impaired causing reductions in memory, learning, decision making, and mood. These changes may increase our risk of an accident or injury. Additionally, our metabolism and immune function can be compromised which reduces our ability to recover and increases our chance of becoming sick. From the negative effects of sleep loss, we know that achieving quality sleep is important for our overall health and wellbeing.
HOW SLEEP IMPACTS PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE
Sleep is a key recovery strategy to enhance physical performance. During sleep, our muscles are repaired following the damage that occurs during exercise. When we don’t get enough sleep, the tissue repair process can be compromised which may slow recovery time and increase injury risk (3). Poor sleep may lead to feelings of fatigue which can increase our perceptions of effort during physical performance.
Further, tasks that rely on reaction time, coordination, and precision are impacted by reduced cognitive processing (4). To optimise physical performance, it is critical to engage in behaviours that promote quality sleep.
TIPS AROUND HOW TO IMPROVE SLEEP
1. Timing is everything - establish a routine:
Having a regular bed and wake time is shown to improve sleep quality, so where possible, focus on establishing a regular sleep routine. Research tells us consistency is key (5). Try not to stay awake for something you wouldn’t get up early for. If you wouldn’t get up at 4 am to watch two Netflix episodes before your FITSTOP class, perhaps re-consider staying up until midnight to do so.
2. You can’t (and shouldn’t) always get what you want:
Sometimes factors outside our control will negatively influence our sleep. However, there are many factors we can consciously control to maximise our chances of quality sleep. The consumption of caffeine is evidenced to impair sleep duration and efficiency. It is recommended to avoid coffee 8.8 hours prior to bedtime and pre-work out 13.2 hours prior (6). Be aware that other substances, such as alcohol, also substantially reduce the quality of our sleep.
Napping can be a great way to supplement night-time sleep, however napping too long or too late can have negative effects on your chances of feeling sleepy at bedtime. It is recommended naps occur between 1-4pm for 20-90minutes (7).
Lastly, screen-time through use of electronic devices close to bed can make us feel more alert and disrupt our bodies' rhythms. Try complete FITSTOP's weekly achievement to reduce screen screen-time occurring 1-hour before bed.
3. Technology - it's what you do with it that counts:
Devices which can track our sleep (with varying degrees of validity) are commercially available (8). With accessibility to all this information, it is important to remind yourself that no one sleeps perfectly every night of the year! There is no need to panic or worry when you have a night of bad sleep; take it as a reminder to refocus on achieving your routine, behaviours, and regain some sleep consistency.
Ready to improve your sleep?
Sleep is important for health, well-being, and performance. Action the above tips to maximise your sleep quality and quantity to help you get the most out of your training!
Written by Carissa Gardiner & Dr Suzy Russell for FITSTOP
1. Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, DonCarlos L, et al. National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015;1(1):40-3.
2. Medic G, Wille M, Hemels ME. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nat Sci Sleep. 2017;9:151-61.
3. Morrison M, Halson SL, Weakley J, Hawley JA. Sleep, circadian biology and skeletal muscle interactions: Implications for metabolic health. Sleep Med Rev. 2022;66:101700.
4. Fullagar HH, Skorski S, Duffield R, Hammes D, Coutts AJ, Meyer T. Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports medicine (Auckland, NZ). 2015;45(2):161-86.
5. Halson SL, Johnston RD, Piromalli L, Lalor BJ, Cormack S, Roach GD, et al. Sleep Regularity and Predictors of Sleep Efficiency and Sleep Duration in Elite Team Sport Athletes. Sports Medicine - Open. 2022;8(1):79.
6. Gardiner C, Weakley J, Burke LM, Roach GD, Sargent C, Maniar N, et al. The effect of caffeine on subsequent sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2023:101764.
7. Lastella M, Halson SL, Vitale JA, Memon AR, Vincent GE. To Nap or Not to Nap? A Systematic Review Evaluating Napping Behavior in Athletes and the Impact on Various Measures of Athletic Performance. Nat Sci Sleep. 2021;13:841-62.
8. Miller DJ, Sargent C, Roach GD. A Validation of Six Wearable Devices for Estimating Sleep, Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability in Healthy Adults. Sensors. 2022;22(16):6317.