The Importance Of Sleep For Athletic Performance

Sleep is a moment of great importance that allows the body to recover strength. Many studies, including Sleep and Athletic Performance by Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopedics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, WI, have shown how important it is to sleep at least 7 hours a night. This number rises to 10 hours in the case of a marathon runner. 

For those who exercise physical activity, it is even recommended to always go to sleep at the same time, and getting up as regularly as possible. For sportsman, sleep is essential because the muscles and joints, tired during training, are repaired by the body while we sleep.

Rest, especially sleep, is just as important to an athlete as training and nutrition. In fact, sleeping well has a positive impact on our body and mind. On the contrary, sleeping badly due to constant awakenings causes hormonal alterations with negative consequences on the metabolism. All this causes stress that increases the production of cortisone and over time causes disorders such as water retention, reduction of muscle growth and increase in fat mass, weakening of the immune system.

This is demonstrated by the increasing number of scientific studies published in the last decade, which highlight how sleep is one of the controllable factors that most affect sports performance. According to an April 2019 article in Practical Neurology, sleep is a fundamental part of any training program and not a passive state of inactivity, as commonplace would have it. How and how much an athlete (professional or amateur) sleeps affects their results, the probability of injury, metabolism, mood and motivation, predisposition to get sick, cognitive functions including the ability to learn (Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 234, Amsterdam: Academic Press, 2017).

If the three dimensions on which a good sports performance is based are training, nutrition and recovery, the latter is however frequently underestimated by sports enthusiasts, who often do not dedicate enough time to rest, thus compromising their performance. All the scientific literature agrees that the most powerful recovery factor for an athlete is sleep, an irreplaceable source of energy and real passive training. In fact, during deep sleep, our body produces substances involved in the regeneration and immune defense: the correct balance of these hormones allows the body to recover better, restoring the amount of glycogen deposited in the muscles and making the entire system energetic and responsive again.

In addition to daily sleep hygiene, it is important (for athletes and anyone) to also take into account the risk of various diseases (such as insomnia, respiratory disorders and sleep movement disorders), which can worsen the quality of rest . They must be recognized and treated in order to guarantee general well-being and improve sports performance.

An evening addressed, therefore, not so much to elite athletes, but to those who have made sport and sporting activity in general a balanced component of an already active (and sometimes stressful) life. 

Apart from the above, good night’s sleep improves resistance, optimizes weight, minimizes water retention and drives up motivation in athletes.