We all feel better after a good night sleep. But have you ever considered the dangers of too many “short nights” or sleep deficit? Here what sleep specialist Jonathan Bloomfield has to say
Fatigue can have a drastic impact on our health, wellbeing and performance. Fatigue specialists like me spend much time monitoring workload.
We measure volume, intensity and frequency of work that can be undertaken without having a detrimental impact on health. We talk about getting individuals into a state of “readiness” – a state where they have returned to a satisfactory level of wellbeing and performance so that they can go for another effort.
For the average person this can mean optimising productivity in the office and safeguarding against burn-out: for high performance athletes it can mean exercising at maximum potential and reducing the likelihood of injuries.
PERFORMANCE OPTIMISATION AND INJURY SUCCEPTIBILITY
If an athlete is not ready for work- perhaps a match or a tough training session- then they are in a “state of compromise”. This may lead to underperformance or injury. At times it can be a very fine line.
Brain function and cognitive abilities are often the first things to deteriorate as the result of fatigue or a sleep deficit. Decision –making skills, judgment of speed and distance and reaction time can all begin to fail.
After just 19-20 hours of being awake, mental capacity and reaction times are as impaired as someone over the legal driving limit.
There is evidence to show that perceptions worsen around feelings of pain, depression, tension and confusion. It is also thought that sustained fatigue suppresses the immune system and makes us more susceptible to illness.
Conversely the benefits of good sleep are quite startling, as found in a number of studies.
SLEEP AND RECOVERY
We now know that a huge portion of our physical and mental repair takes place at night as the hormone surges of the day, such as adrenaline and testosterone, die down and the body rebalances cortisol levels to regulate stress.
Once asleep, the body also typically sees a spike in growth hormone production, which is directed to areas of the body, where it is needed most. This contribute to the development of our muscles and bones, and the regulation of the metabolism. The production of the hormone prolactin also increases, which helps to reduce any inflammation.
During sleep the breathing rate slows and deepens, delivering more oxygen to the bloodstream than when awake and at rest. Our brain and central nervous systems develop to recognise, restore and refine the motor skills we have learnt. To put it a different way, all the things an athlete learns during coaching sessions, competitive matches analysis meetings is consolidated at night. These skills eventually develop to the point of automatization and instinct.
Whether you are an athlete or are simply busy juggling work and family life, one thing’s for sure: you’ll be much better equipped to handle what life throws at you when you maintain healthy sleep patterns.
PERFORMANCE OPTIMISATION AND INJURY SUSCEPTIBILITY
Research at Stanford University found that increasing sleep to 10 hours returned the following results among collegiate athletes:
8% improvement in 15m speed
20% improvement in reaction times off the block
10% improvement in turn time efficiency
19% improvement in kick strokes
9% improvement in free throw shooting accuracy
0.7% sec faster sprint time over 95 yards
Written by Dr. Jonathan Bloomfield –Mammoth Sleep Specialist