Sleep is a huge factor in athletic and cognitive performance

garfield-sleepOften research can point out the bleeding obvious. For example, there are a number of reports coming out at the moment that tell us we think more clearly and perform better during exercise when we are well rested.

But the real question is how much better? Can we quantify the benefits of different amounts of sleep?

Researchers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have quantified the effect of sleep deprivation on energy expenditure during submaximal, maximal aerobic power and time to exhaustion.

Here’s what the researchers found:

  • Energy expenditure during submaximal exercise decreased 3.9%
  • Maximal aerobic power decreased 2.9%
  • Time to exhaustion decreased by 10.7%

The randomized crossover study involved 12 healthy elite male cyclists (Where are the women in this research?) who restricted sleep to four hours for three days or extended sleep to ten hours for two weeks.

We’ve looked at split sleep before and how it worked for one person. And I know that my work and training performance improves when I’m well rested.

Another study looked at 96 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 50 years with sleep duration of 6.5 hours or more. The goal was to see if sleep patterns influenced diet and whether sleep timing and duration were linked to obesity risk.

These researchers found late sleep timing is associated with a lower body mass index and is not associated with total caloric intake. However, it remains associated with poorer diet quality, particularly fast food, vegetable and dairy intake.

In other words, the data found a correlation between people who go to bed later and those that eat a poorer quality diet.

There’s little doubt that sleep deprivation has an effect on cognitive performance. Research by Paula Alhola and Päivi Polo-Kantola, titled Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance, says “The negative effect of both acute total and chronic partial SD on attention and working memory is supported by existing literature”.

What are the lessons for us?

  1. Getting good sleep regularly impacts our ability to perform well in exercise
  2. There’s a correlation between sleep times and diet
  3. Our brains work better when we are well rested

What can you do?

There are plenty of things you can do. An article at Mark’s Daily Apple lists 23 ways you can get more sleep.

I don’t think it needs to be that complex. Most of us are organised when it comes to setting up meetings, scheduling training sessions, attending kids’ activities and going on dates. We can apply the same discipline to sleep.

Set a regular bed time and stick to it. Set a regular wake time and stick to it.

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