Modern humans have a bizarre relationship with sleep. People love to remark on how tired they are, and it's almost a badge of honor to be sleep-deprived, either from an overly active social life, an insatiable drive to work, or, more realistically, difficulty unplugging from social media and endless archives of streaming video late at night. Still, everyone looks forward to that day that they can catch up on sleep, and restart the process
As an athlete, your performance depends on your sleep. While there may be all kinds of conflicting social messages about sleep, the reality is that it is essential for elite performance and body composition. While all of the biological details of sleep are only barely understood, it is known that the health and the balance of your hormones depends on a solid quantity and rhythm of sleep. Your body secretes the lion's share of its growth hormone while asleep, and this hormone is essential for recovering from training and rebuilding a stronger body. Similarly, insulin sensitivity is dependent on deep, uninterrupted sleep. In order to effectively manage the nutrients you're eating, your sleep quality must be dialed in. Day-to-day performance is also heavily dependent upon sleep. The changes in mental acuity relative to a good night's sleep are obvious to anyone who has taken a trans-continental trip. How would you do on the ACT in a state of brutal jet lag? Less obviously, this mental fatigue impacts ability to train and perform in a sport.
So, for anyone concerned with optimal performance and optimal body composition, sleep needs to be high on their list of priorities. While less exciting than the latest supplement or discovering a long-lost Soviet workout routine, sleep is an incredibly basic and incredibly powerful performance-enhancing drug. When looking to improve sleep quality, there are three main areas of concern:
1. Sleep duration
- How long are you sleeping?
- Are your sleep cycles consistent or scattered?
2. Sleep quality
- Are you free of distractions before you hit the sack?
- Do you have silence and darkness effectively capture in your sleeping quarters (that's a great way to describe your bedroom and also associate with vampires).
- Are you tossing and turning in your sleep, waking up frequently, or interrupted by noise/brightness/etc?
3. Sleep consistency
- How often do you hit your 7-9 Hours?
- How often is it quality sleep?
- How often do you dream?