Especially in these uncertain times, it may be more difficult to be able to relax, to fall asleep or to have good sleep quality and quantity that our bodies need. So, let’s take a look at how sleep can effect performance and what steps we can take to improve.
How can sleep loss influence your performance?
A reduction in sleep quality or quantity can result in an autonomic nervous system inbalance causing symptoms of overtraining syndrome.
Growth hormone is released during deep sleep.
There is a 1.7 times greater risk of injury in athletes who sleep under 8hrs per night.
When sleeping under 7 hrs per night cognitive performance is worse in tests for alertness, reaction time, memory and decision making – all vital aspects for racing drivers!
Can cause immune system disfunction.
Perceptual and motor learning occurs during sleep – so this can be adversely affected.
2-hour light exposure from electronic displays (TVs, tablets, smartphones) can suppress melatonin by 22% and therefore effect sleep. Evidence suggests that most athletes sleep less than 8hrs a night.
How can you enhance sleep?
Make sure your room is a quiet environment.
Maintain room temp – 18 degrees Celsius.
Make sure bedding/clothing doesn’t cause you to get too hot.
Sleep routine – consistent time each night for falling asleep and each day for waking up. If you have a test or race coming up where you need to be ready early, get in this routine in the weeks leading up to the event.
Avoid caffeine and food/fluid ingestion leading up to sleep.
Avoid use of computer, tablet, TV before sleep.
Ensure your room is dark.
Strategies if you wake up in the night:
Inevitably sometimes, you may wake up during the night, sometimes from being too hot or cold, noise or from anxiety with an upcoming race.
64% of athletes indicated worse sleep prior to competition. 82% reported problems falling asleep before competition.
Stay out of your head – the key to getting back to sleep is continuing to cue your body for sleep, so stay in bed in a relaxed position, try not to stress about being awake or not being able to fall back to sleep – this will make you more anxious and make it more difficult. Focus on being relaxed, use visualisation, deep breathing or meditation – relaxation can still help rejuvenate your body.
Do a quiet, non-stimulating activity – e.g read a book – but don’t look at your phone as the light will stimulate your brain!
If you have had poor sleep – you can power nap!
Sometimes a bad night’s sleep is unavoidable – in this case you can use a power nap to your advantage!
15-20 mins is optimum.
Power nap after training enhances perceptual and motor learning.
Although don’t nap late in afternoon as may affect ability to fall asleep later on.
Restores alertness, reverses hormonal impact of poor night’s sleep, enhances physical and cognitive performance, reduces stress.
Having caffeine right before your nap improves alertness when you wake up – this is sometimes called a caffeine power nap!