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Attention all Athletes: It is as important to do nothing as it is to do something! Meaning, having periods of rest is just as important as the days you train. Why?- because on the days you rest your body is recovering and benefiting from all that physical work you put in. So remember, the key to maximizing the benefits of your workouts is rest- particularly the hours you sleep.
Sleep, together with a balanced diet and regular physical activity, are the basic pillars of good health
How many hours of sleep should an athlete get?
It’s important to make sure you get enough sleep, 7 to 8 hours is usually what experts recommend. Although there are cases in which you should sleep a little more. Doing intense physical activities or being an athlete is one of them.
In that case, you should sleep between 8 and 9 hours, but never less than 8.
What happens while you sleep?
A lot of unconscious, super-powerful biological processes are taking place while you sleep.
The first of which is the recovery of the tissues and muscles. Did you know that this is actually when your muscle tone improves and grows; not during training.
While we are asleep, our body’s basic functions are restored. Our nervous system rebalances itself, our immune system is strengthened, and our brain gets plenty of oxygen… Think about your body being charged like a battery at night.
In the long run, proper rest results in fewer injuries and better performance. There are already studies, such as the one published in the Journal of Science and Sport’s Medicine, that link fibrillar tears to excessive stress and a lack of sleep.
When you don’t sleep enough your body feels fatigued and your athletic performance will suffer. Additionally, you could even be compromising your overall health as a lack of sleep has been linked to premature aging and the development of illnesses.
Athletes and Naps
While this is often a controversial topic amongst many, I’m of the firm belief that if you have time in the early afternoon and feel like having a quick nap, why not? Some argue that if you have issues sleeping you shouldn’t do this, but if it’s early enough in the day I don’t believe this to be a problem. Quite the contrary in fact.
Napping is the perfect combo to a good night’s rest for athletes and has proven benefits:
- Combats stress.
- Reduces blood pressure.
- Reduces physical and mental fatigue.
- Increases performance and concentration.
- Improves mood.
- Stimulates creativity.
Have you ever heard of a Reset Day?
This is a word that is often used in CrossFit and other high-intensity sports- a day where you simply rest, no training, or physical activity of any kind. One day a week of total rest where the goal is for your muscles to recover and for your fatigue to completely disappear.
When to train
A high percentage of people find it difficult to fall asleep, so if this is you, you might want to consider changing when you train. Training late in the day can be counterproductive, do you want to know some reasons why?
- When you train your sympathetic nervous system activity increases
- Body alertness is activated.
- Your heart rate increases, which can impact your restorative sleep.
- Your body temperature rises when you do physical activity. It doesn’t start to drop until 2 or 3 hours after training. This drop is key in reaching the deep sleep cycle.
Still, think sleeping is a waste of time? I encourage you to give your body the rest it needs, and try some of these tricks. Also, if you are someone who finds it difficult to get a good night’s rest, then keep your eyes out for my next few posts, where I will be sharing all my tips and tricks.