Impact Of Sleep on Performance and Quality of Life!

Yes, training hard is important and we all know the benefits of a quality exercise regime and nutrition plan. However, most people don’t know the importance of rest (quality sleep) on performance at the gym and in life. Yes, sleeping well help you with lifting more weight, running faster and burning more fat.

Why Should we Sleep?

Sleep is essential for recovery not only in athletes but all human beings. It has numerous benefits including improved physical, physiological, and cognitive performance.

Sleep functions by producing restorative effects on the body’s physiological systems including recovery of the nervous and musculoskeletal system. Moreover, it enhances cognitive development leading to improved learning and memory. All these factors also help in enhancing our quality of life and our day-to-day activities. Moreover, if we don’t rest and let our bodies recover and keep pushing ourselves over long term, it may lead to physical and mental fatigue, injuries and burning out.                       

Here's what I would like you to do

1. Have a bedtime schedule where you go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day

A consistent wake up and sleep time aids with long term sleep quality as the body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. After a while you won’t need an alarm!

2. Consider the 10/3/2/1/0 rule

This may be something new for you but here’s how I keep it simple.

  • No caffeine 10 hours before bed
  • No food or alcohol 3 hours before bed
  • No work-related activity 2 hours before bed
  • No use of technology an hour before the bed
  • Zero number of times you press snooze on the alarm in the morning

Caffeine has numerous benefits including increased focus, energy, and sports performance. However, it stays elevated in your system for 6-8 hours, stimulates your nervous system preventing the body from naturally relaxing at night.

Eating late at night or consuming alcohol may negatively affect both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin affecting the body’s circadian rhythm.

Technology like smartphones, computers gadgets emit blue light in large amounts, this affects the sleep rhythm by tricking the brain that it’s still daytime. Resulting in reducing melatonin (responsible for relaxation and deep sleep).

3. Relax and clear the mind

 It is essential to relax the mind before sleeping to optimize sleep quality. Some strategies may include meditation, reading a book, listening to calming music, taking a hot bath and breathing exercises.

4. Avoiding liquids 1-2 hours before bed

This reduces the chances of affecting the sleep quality by waking up at night and having to go to the bathroom. Trying a visit to the bathroom before bedtime.

5. Optimize the bedroom environment

External noise, traffic, light, artificial light can cause poor sleep. To maximise sleep quality, make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean and an enjoyable place.

6. Regular Exercise

It is backed by research! Exercise improves sleep quality and reduces the symptoms of insomnia.

Here's why?

A night’s worth of sleep comprises of roughly 90-minute cycles spread across periods of both rapid eye movement sleep (REM; associated with dreams), and non-REM sleep (NREM).

Non-REM sleep:

NREM sleep is divided into three different stages mainly comprising the beginning of sleep with slow eye movement (‘relaxed wakefulness’), no eye movement (‘easily awakened’) and slow wave sleep (‘deep sleep’).

Stage 1 of non-REM sleep lasts several minutes as you move from being awake to being asleep.

During stage 1:

  • Your body functions begin to slow — heartbeat, respiration, and eye movements
  • Your muscles relax with only occasional twitches
  • Your brain waves start to slow down from their wakeful state

Stage 2 accounts for about 50 percent of the total sleep cycle. This is the stage of sleep you may fall into more than any other stage throughout the night.

During stage 2:

  • your body’s systems continue to slow and relax
  • your core temperature drops
  • your eye movements stop
  • your brain waves are slow, but you have some short bursts of activity

Stages 3 and 4 are when you experience deep sleep.

During these stages:

  • your muscles relax and your breathing and heartbeat become their slowest
  • your brain waves become the slowest they’ll be while you’re asleep
  • it’s difficult to awaken even with loud noises

NREM sleep also recharges the body by increasing the synthesis of protein and mobilising free fatty acids to use as energy. Hence, reducing muscle loss and increasing the rate of fat burning. Therefore, NREM is important if you are working hard at the gym to promote the repair and healing muscular damage.

REM sleep

Stage 5, or your first stage of REM sleep, occurs about 90 minutes after moving through non-REM stages. This stage assists with the cognitive aspect including emotional regulation, memory, and learning.

During this stage:

  • your eyes move rapidly from side to side
  • you experience dreaming as your brain activity increases to a more wakeful state
  • your heart rate increases to near its wakeful state
  • your breathing becomes faster and even irregular at times
  • your limbs may even become paralysed

Fun Fact: Even aquatic animals that need to swim all day, every day from birth to death sleep—some actually sleep with half their brain awake and the other half asleep!

How long should we sleep?

You may have heard of the basic guideline of sleeping for 7-8 hours. However, what if you are in bed for that time and not actually asleep? Based on the above, moving through the different stages of sleep cycle is the difference between an average and a good quality sleep. It is recommended that most adults get quality sleep (time asleep not time in bed) of 7-9 hours a day with roughly 15-25% of that spent in deep sleep (final stages of NREM). Generally younger people get more deep sleep than people over the age of 30 although it varies from person to person.

How do you keep a track?

Finding you are waking feeling tired and exhausted may be a sign that you are not getting enough deep sleep.

A few devices that measure sleep are now widely available and can easily measure sleep quality by tracking your body’s movements overnight. These may include sleep trackers, smart watches, and smartphone apps.  Be aware that while such technology provides a simple way of tracking your sleep, it may not be a reliable indicator.

I personally use an app and smartwatch to track my sleep that tells me about the duration in bed and time asleep.

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