Yes, exercise, food, and hydration are all important parts in preparation of sports participation, but what about sleep? Many do not realize or they forget how important sleep is, especially for collegiate athletes. College athletes have their sport practices, weight lifting sessions, conditioning sessions, classes and a million other things going on in their life, which means sleep gets sacrificed. There have been many studies that show athletes need to have good sleep patterns if they want to have good performance. Sleep is also the time when the body does a lot of remodeling, therefore athletes that do not receive adequate amounts of sleep, cannot recover from difficult workouts or stresses that are being placed on the body. It is said that athletic adults of all ages require more sleep than the normal lay person and should receive between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. For individuals that are not reaching this number, you may have what is known as sleep deprivation, or lack of sleep. As a general rule, the ability to perform relatively basic mathematic problem solving and memory skills will diminish by over 20%. That could mean that academic functioning could decline and the ability to handle mental tasks at practice might suffer.
The physiological effects of sleep deprivation on athletic performance are manifested by impairment of the athlete’s motor function. This can mean the inability to control muscular movements at times which can cause a greater risk of injury as compared to athletes that receive enough rest. Sleep deprivation also causes delays in an athlete’s auditory reaction affecting decision-making abilities. As for aerobic performance and endurance, the storage, conversion and metabolism of glucose as an energy source are decreased through sleep deprivation. It is estimated that glucose metabolism will deteriorate in a period of seven to 10 days of limited sleep by as much as 30% to 40%. This means that it can not only affect the performance part of athletics, but can affect the ability for the body to properly store the glycogen necessary during vigorous training and competition. The psychological effects of sleep deprivation on an athlete are as astonishing as its impacts on the body. A sleep-deprived athlete can actually develop intolerance to fatigue and feel more fatigued quickly because of the absence of sleep. Absence of sleep will also trigger the endocrine system to produce greater levels of the “stress hormone”; cortisol and cause adverse effect on mood. With all of these out of whack, it can cause the athlete to be more irritable and short-tempered about things that usually do not affect the athlete.
Preventing Sleep Deprivation can be simple of just thought about thoroughly. Here are some steps to help prevent problems with sleeping. Wake up and go to sleep at a normal routine time. If that means sleeping at 2am every night and getting up at 10am every morning then that is a routine. Not optimal sleep times but if it kept up with it works. Avoid caffeine and stimulants four hours before bed time. Avoid high intensity work outs and large meals three hour before bed. Have a time to reduce stressors before going to sleep. Keep sleep environment comfortable and suitable for your needs. Avoid napping one to three hours before set bed time to ensure ability of falling asleep. These are great tips for those struggling with sleeping or just do not understand how to get on a sleep schedule. Sleep is important, just as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat so try and think about sleep more often.