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Effects of Sleep Loss on Athletic Performance

pain performance running sleep hygiene stress management Aug 16, 2021
Sleep Hygiene
It’s pretty well understood that sleep hygiene is important. If you get enough high-quality sleep, you tend to feel better and think more clearly. A lack of sleep will lead to grogginess, irritability, and slower mental processing. Long-term sleep deprivation can be linked to chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes.
 
While getting adequate sleep allows athletes to perform at higher levels, a lack of sleep will impair performance. After looking at several studies on this topic, here is a list of likely performance limitations after not getting enough sleep. Since the studies were specifically testing certain athletic populations, I will include those populations from the articles next to each impairment.
 
1. Reduced sprint speed -- track and field, team sports
2. Reduced accuracy -- tennis serve, volleyball serves, soccer shots
3. Less time to fatigue -- quicker exhaustion in runners
4. Slower reaction times -- collegiate athletes
5. Impaired decision making -- adults
6. Increased risk of injury -- high school athletes
7. Increased risk of illness or immunosuppression -- adults and children
 
While I barely scratched the surface on the huge collection of evidence on sleep deprivation, it is clear that it will hinder your athletic performance as well as your ability to master tasks at work and at home. These effects can be seen following one night of poor sleep. These effects are made worse by consistently neglecting your sleep hygiene.
 
If you struggle with getting quality sleep, then I challenge you to change your behaviors. Get yourself into a nightly routine that involves no phone use, no TV watching, no late-in-the-day caffeine, and no alcohol. Focus on relaxation through yoga, meditation, or reading a book. Have a conversation with your significant other, your child, or yourself (internal dialogue about your successes from the day -- no need to actually talk to yourself haha). Perform your nightly habits in the same order each night, such as brushing your teeth, changing into pajamas (or whatever floats your boat for comfortable sleep), and setting your alarms. When you get into bed, be there to sleep, not play on your phone.
 
Give it a week or two, and see how much better you feel. You may notice less of a drag in the morning, less need for coffee/energy drinks, a better mood, and less joint pain while exercising.
 
Corey Hall, PT, DPT
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