World Sleep Day: how sleep can affect your health and performance

Nowadays everyone is looking for the edge in business, on the field of play, in academia, or for general health and well being. Our clients often ask questions like, “what can be done to maximise performance”, “what can be done to increase alertness”, “how I can get increased energy levels”. Regardless of the client, whether it’s a professional athlete competing on the world stage, a business person trying to maximise profits and productivity or a weekend warrior looking for a new personal best, our go to question is…….DO YOU GET ENOUGH QUALITY SLEEP?

Invariably, this question seems simplistic and often the answer provokes the response that “It can’t be that easy!” Well in many cases it is that easy.

We should be getting 7-9 hours sleep as adults. Furthermore we should be striving for unbroken, deep sleep of high quality where more than 30% of our night’s sleep is considered deep sleep. Quality deep sleep is compromised for many of us as we sleep too lightly and this can be because of number of habits such as exercising or eating too late at night or maybe too many electronics are charging (on standby) in our bedroom. A sneaky one is natural light entering your room during sunrise. The natural morning light is nature’s way of awaking you from deep sleep, once this process starts your body begins to prepare to wake up. Some studies have found that the blue light from your smart phone or tablet is similar to this sunrise light. Now we can see why checking your phone or tablet late at night can actually keep you awake.

Many of the top performers in the world of sport and business value the importance of restorative sleep and go to extreme measures to maximize the benefits as they significantly contribute to optimal performance (physical and cognitive).

So what does sleep deprivation do to your performance?

  1. Decreased energy: Sleep deprivation reduces your body’s ability to store glycogen – energy that you need during physical activity.
  2. Worse decision making and reflexes: Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are worse at making split-second decisions and less accurate.
  3. Hormone changes: Not getting enough sleep can increase levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can slow down healing, increase the risk of injuries, and worsen memory. Sleep deprivation can also lower levels of growth hormone that helps the body repair.

Some facts on sleep and performance:

  • More Sleep means better free throw shooting by 11% in professional basketball players
  • Sleep Extension provided a 17% improvement in reaction time off the starting block in swimming
  • Tennis Players get a 42% boost in hitting accuracy during depth drills with sleep extension
  • American Football Players drop 0.1 second off their 40 yard dash times by sleeping more
  • A 20-30 minute power nap improves alertness by 100%
  • Adequate Sleep improves split-second decision making ability by 4.3%
  • Reducing sleep debt increases vigour by 64%
  • Sleep loss means an 11% reduction in time to exhaustion
  • Chronic Sleep loss can lead to a 30-40% reduction in glucose metabolism
  • 2 Days of sleep restriction can lead to 3x increase in lapses of attention and reactivity
  • Cognitive performance with 6 hours or less sleep per night is the same as getting no sleep for 48 hrs
  • Maximum Bench Press drops by 20 Ibs after 4 days of restricted sleep (5 hrs per night)

5 Tips to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

  1. Have a regular wake-up and bed time each day. Your internal body clock adjusts to set itself around this regular patterning. Weekends too!
  2. Avoid stimulants prior to heading to bed. Reduce stimulant intake for at least 5 hours before going to bed.
  3. Avoid high intensity exercise for 2 hours before going to bed
  4. Schedule in some “quiet time” before bed. Limit your exposure to loud music, bright lights, computers, and work related stress just before bed. The aim here is to reduce stress and stimulants to allow the mind time to wind down.
  5. Do not nap within 1-3 hours of bed time. If you do nap during the day aim for 20-40 minutes around lunch time.

Happy World Sleep Day everyone!