With any endeavour athletic or otherwise it is often the details that make the difference. You can argue that sleep is not a detail it is a pretty major part of our lives, but how much attention do you pay to your sleep? Has it been an influencing factor in courses you have taken, where you have lived or where you stayed for exams? No… Should it have been?
When chatting to students, making videos or getting cool photos for Instagram sleep is rarely one of thing s that we get really excited about. Videos tend to need a bit more action, students are more interested in what they are doing during the day and photos are hard to take while napping.
Despite this it is so important to our performance and something that deserves far more attention than it is given. On average in the UK we get between just 5 and 6 hours of sleep. For adults aged between 18 and 64 it is recommended that we need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night to perform optimally and many agree that those living athletic lifestyles need more.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
As a trainee ski instructor slower reaction times should be enough to make you think hard about how you can increase the number of hours sleep you get each night. Bumps are hard enough at full speed when fully awake let alone when you are feeling a touch slow. In addition to that with the high price of food in most ski resorts can you afford to eat more?
A lack of sleep can cause more than just slow reactions and a hefty food bill though. Some research shows that not getting enough sleep can lead to higher Cortisol levels. Cortisol has a catabolic (muscle breakdown) effect on tissue and is associated with a decrease in anabolic (muscle growth) hormones. Thus reducing levels of cortisol is ideal for an athlete to achieve tissue growth and positive adaptations to training. Cortisol can have a negative impact on, mood, sex drive, bone health, ligament health, cardiovascular health, sleep (Can you see a vicious cycle here?) and athletic performance, potentially causing fatigue and inflammation.
Felicia Stoler, RD, an exercise physiologist says “Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself,” she says. “If we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t perform well.”
On the flip side, studies have found clear evidence that increasing sleep has real benefits for athletes.
Jim Thornton President of the National Athletic Trainers Association feels athletes should sleep for about an extra hour each day. The good news is this does not have to mean an early night. An afternoon nap is great too.
What sleep does for you!
One study tracked the Stanford University basketball team for several months. Players added an average of almost 2 hours of sleep a night. The results? Players increased their speed by 5%. Their free throws were 9% more accurate. They had faster reflexes and felt happier. Other studies have shown similar benefits for football players and other athletes.
An hour extra sleep a day maybe the cheapest way you can improve your performance, no expensive training plans or need for a lift pass.
Sleep is really important, so much so we make a point of never using bunk beds on any of our residential courses to ensure not one is kept awake by any tossing or turning. If you are sitting an exam in a resort is it worth saving that €50’s a week by being 30 minutes further a way. Would you benefit from the sleep more?
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