Whether your goals revolve around body transformation, improved overall health & fitness and/or improved athletic performance, sleep quality and quantity is a key ingredient. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, one in five adults fail to get the proper amount of sleep each night. How do you know if you are sleep deprived? Here are a few signs to be aware of:
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of energy
- Increased errors
If you are experiencing these or similar symptoms, you very well may be experiencing sleep deprivation. How do we recover from sleep deprivation? Again, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “there is no substitute for sufficient sleep. The only sure way for an individual to overcome sleep deprivation is to increase nightly sleep time to satisfy his or her biological sleep need.”
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Understandably, we all lead very busy lives, and all too often, getting the right amount of sleep falls lower and lower on the list of priorities. According to Dr. David Geier of Sports Medicine Simplified, most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a myriad of negative outcomes. The effects of sleep deprivation go far beyond an individual just feeling tired and exhausted. For example, sleep deprivation can cause the following:
- Decreased performance and alertness
- Memory and cognitive impairment
- Mayo Clinic studies show that if you don’t get enough sleep, it’s more likely that your body won’t be able to fend off invaders. It may also take you longer to recover from illness. Long-term sleep deprivation raises your risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
- Harvard Medical School studies have found a link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Along with eating too much and not exercising, sleep deprivation is one of the risk factors for obesity.
- Harvard Medical School studies also show that sleeping less than five hours a night increases the risk of death from all causes by about 15 percent. Sleep deprivation is dangerous to your mental and physical health and can dramatically lower your quality of life.
If you are looking to improve your sleep quality and quantity, here are a few tips. According to the National Sleep Foundation:
- Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
- Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool, between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
Monitor Your Sleep
As athletes, we tend to monitor and track many variables, like our pace, power, heart rate, speed and calorie intake/output. While these are all great parameters to track, we may be overlooking one of the most important numbers: sleep quality, sleep quantity and resting heart rate.
The same high-tech device you use to monitor the aforementioned numbers above, will most likely also track your sleep. And if it does not, definitely look into getting a sleep tracker. This is one of the best and most accurate ways to monitor your sleep. And just as you set goals for your pace, power, etc; do the same with your sleep. What’s your goal-time to go to bed each night? What’s your goal-time to wake up each day? Attack these goals with the same ferocity as you do your performance goals and success will be yours.
As you can see, proper sleep is a key ingredient to our success. No matter how busy we are, if we want to perform and recover at our best and achieve our goals, getting the right amount of sleep each night needs to be a priority. Let’s be sure to sleep for success!