Sharpen Your Wits And Athletic Performance With Better Sleep
A significant part of athletic performance comes down to mental well-being.
Sports psychologists know that psychological factors can lead to physical disruptions, which is why they employ techniques like visualization, goal-setting, meditation, positive self-talk, and anxiety management to keep their clients in tip-top shape.
Whether you’re a professional athlete, a gym enthusiast, or you just like to kick a ball around with your mates, keeping your mind healthy will go a long way towards maintaining your physical performance.
Experts are increasingly focusing on sleep as a crucial component of mental health. Your capacity for good judgment, ability to retain information, concentrate, and maintain your mood are at the mercy of your sleep habits—and all these factors can affect your athletic performance.
If you wouldn’t hit the gym drunk, consider that sleep deprivation can cause cognitive and motor defects equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.1% (the level at which one is considered legally drunk). In one study, just 17-19 hours of wakefulness resulted in slowed reaction times and weakened reasoning.
Predictably, longer periods of sleep deprivation amounted to worse performance. If you think that the benefits garnered by an extra hour of training can overshadow the negative side effects of sleep deprivation, think again. A study on major league baseball (MLB) players measured players’ "plate discipline," or tendency for a batter to swing at a ball outside the strike zone, through a 162-game season.
The researchers expected to find that plate discipline would improve with experience and repetition, but counterintuitively, the opposite was found to be true. The suspected cause? Sleepiness and fatigue. Principal investigator of the above study W. Christopher Winter, MD, said: "We were shocked by how linear the relationship was. It is a great reminder that sleepiness impairs performance.
From a sports perspective, this is incredibly important. What this study shows is that we can use the science of sleep to predict sports performance."
Next time you think about trading an hour of sleep for an hour of exercise, remember that you can’t achieve the best of your athletic potential without consistent, good quality sleep.