Alaska Sleep Education Center

Why Athletes Should Prioritize Their Sleep

Posted by Mikkie Mills on Oct 28, 2020 5:49:00 AM

athletic runner finish line track

Good sleep is important for everyone to get no matter what, but it can be particularly important for athletes if they want to be able to perform their best. Not only can getting good sleep improve your brain function and your ability to focus, but it supports your muscle health and development, and your overall endurance, as well. On the other hand, getting bad quality sleep, or not getting enough sleep can have many detrimental effects not only on how well you perform, but on your overall health as well. If you're looking for some more reasons to hit the hay early, or ways to sleep better throughout the night if you struggle to do so, here are some things to keep in mind.

Sleep and Performance

The quality of sleep you get at night can have a direct impact on your performance, no matter what sport you do, or what kind of equipment you use, whether it's rawlings or another useful item. When you sleep at night, your body does a lot of work to repair itself, especially when you dip into deeper sleep cycles. It repairs itself at a cellular level and regulates many of your body's natural functions and processes. Even after one night of missed sleep, you will likely feel groggy and out of it. This can make your reflexes slower and make it harder for you to move quickly or respond to what's happening around you. Although the amount of sleep required for each person to feel their best may vary, getting around 8 hours of sleep a night is recommended to feel your best.

Sleep and Your Brain

Part of the reason that sleep can have such a big impact on your performance as an athlete is how it affects your brain. Even though most of your body may seem like it is at rest while you are sleeping, your brain is actually very active during sleep. This is because it is shifting in and out of different sleep cycles, but also because it is doing a lot of work to repair itself and keep itself functioning well. When you don't get enough sleep, your brain will feel tired and struggle to process new information as quickly as it normally would. This can also have an impact on the rest of your nervous system, and your reflexes, as well.


Beyond that, many new neural pathways are created during sleep. This means that while you are sleeping your brain is working to integrate new information and absorb it. Any time that you learn anything new, it is necessary to sleep to properly assimilate that information into your brain. Whether it's a new play or drill, you need to sleep to be able to retain the information and understand it fully.

Sleep and Your Muscles

Not only does sleep have a big impact on your brain, but on your muscles and how well they function, too. When you work out or exercise you are essentially tearing your muscles and causing damage to them. They then heal and repair themselves, which creates new muscles. However, most of this healing and reparation happens at night when you sleep. If you don't get enough rest your body may not be able to repair the muscle and build it. Because of this, no matter how much working out or training you do, if you don't get enough sleep at night it will not create new muscle and will simply wear down the muscle that you currently have.

Habits That Prevent Good Sleep

To start improving your sleep quality today, it can be a good idea to begin cutting out habits that are harmful to your sleep. One of the best things you can do is begin cutting out or reducing foods that disrupt your sleep cycles, like caffeine and alcohol. Even though caffeine can be a great way to give yourself a boost of energy, whether you get it through coffee or energy drinks, it can also wear you out. This is due to the fact that it stimulates your nervous system. While stimulating your nervous system may be helpful when you need a pick me up, it can keep it stimulated later on in the day, and at night, too, which can make it difficult or even impossible to fall asleep. While it may be hard to cut out caffeine altogether, reducing your intake and limiting to the early mornings only can still be beneficial.

Alcohol is another big culprit behind bad sleep. While some may think it promotes sleep because it can make them drowsy, the reality is that it is actually very bad for your sleep cycles. Even though you may be able to fall asleep after drinking alcohol, it can be hard to stay asleep, or to experience deeper sleep cycles. While one or two drinks may not cause serious problems, drinking more than that can be harmful to your sleep, and may be best to avoid doing on a regular basis.

How To Promote Quality Sleep

To keep your brain and your muscles in the shape they need to be in to perform well, it can be a good idea to begin incorporating habits into your daily routine that promote good sleep. One of the best things you can do to promote good sleep is to eat a healthy and balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein. Beyond your diet, you should also work on having a regular sleep schedule. The more that you can go to bed at the same time every night, the easier it will be for your body to maintain its natural rhythms and fall into quality, restful sleep. Also, having a bedtime ritual can be helpful as well. By taking up a calming activity, like reading, gentle stretches, or meditation before bed, you can help relax your nervous system and prepare your body for sleep.

Some Last Thoughts

Getting good sleep is important for everyone to maintain their health no matter what, but it can be particularly important for athletes if they want to be able to perform well. While it may not always be easy to get good sleep every single night, especially if you have a busy schedule, the reality is that it's a necessity if you want to perform your best and stay on top of your game. The good news is, though, that there are many things you can do from eating a sleep promoting diet to starting some bedtime rituals that can help you to start improving your sleep quality today.

Sleep doesn’t just have physical effects on athletes but it also has mental effects. By having better sleeping patterns you can improve performance, mental strength, consistency, reduce the risk of injuries and fatigue. Whether you’re competing at the highest level or just playing for fun, the importance of sleep is unmatched.

Alaska Sleep Clinic is one of the only sleep clinics in Alaska with a Pediatric Medical Director.  We take your child's sleep seriously and are ready to help you diagnose and treat their sleep issues. 

The great news is that when sleep apnea is discovered and treated correctly in someone 18 and under, the probability is high that they will grow out of the issue and have fantastic sleep the rest of their life.

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Topics: athletes, athletics, sleep habits, losing sleep

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