The Power of Sleep

Judge me all you want, but I have the bedtime of the average 7-year-old! I know that I need at least 8-hours sleep to ensure I feel human the next day. I hate the feeling of being groggy and tired and so I prioritise my sleep. Furthermore, I am pretty tired come the end of the day, so it’s not like I am forcing myself to get to sleep. Growing up in a sporty household this has always been a trait of mine. As a kid, when I finished my school day I would have at least 2 activities most evenings. I played tennis, netball, rounders, swam, ran cross country, and athletics. I was probably getting about 10 hours sleep a night in my teens.

Knowing that not everyone prioritises sleep, it’s made me wonder why? Maybe these people are not as tired come the end of the day? Maybe they want to sleep more, but have little ones that keep them up all night? Maybe they have FOMO of missing something in the evening? Or maybe they just don’t realise just how important sleep and recovery is?

Sleep is divided into two main types: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). NREM occurs first and this is when the bodies temperature drops, heart rate slows, and the brain uses less energy. REM sleep is when we dream (or have nightmares) and is associated with fast brain waves and eye movements. This is also when the body logs and records memories from the day.  This cycle of NREM and REM lasts for an average of 90 minutes and happens 4 - 6 times during a good night’s sleep. 

During sleep our bodies recover from the day and the stresses that we have place on our systems. Not getting the adequate amount of sleep quite simply means you are not recovering sufficiently from your training. You can also suffer throughout the day or in your sport from decreased accuracy, decreased reaction time, difficulty when making decisions, quicker exhaustion rates, a higher risk of injury, and a higher risk of illness.

So, there are plenty of downsides of not getting enough sleep. But also, if you are prioritising your sleep, you get some rewards, as your athletic performance can actually be enhanced! Studies have shown that when sleep is increased to 9 hours a night, athletes have better reaction times, faster sprint times, and better accuracy in motor skills. 

If you are ready to upgrade your sleep, but not quite sure how. I recommend that you map out your day and week and think about where certain daily or weekly tasks lie. Is there a way that you can free up your evening to aid in an earlier bedtime? Work back your required bedtime from your wake-up time by 8 hours. 

Then, I recommend that you take a look at your sleep hygiene:

  • Have a bedtime/wind-down routine
  • Keep your phone (and other devices) outside of your bedroom
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine before bedtime
  • Use blue light glasses before bed if on a screen
  • Ensure you bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool

Lastly, don’t expect to go from sleeping 6 hours a night to 10, but if you can gradually increase your sleep time on a weekly basis you will be on the right track!