The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep 7-9 hours a night and teens sleep 8.5-9.5 hours.  The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) estimate that 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder with the number one cause being ‘concentrating on things’ (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).

Meanwhile, Lebron James has reported that he gets an average of 12 hours of sleep a day.  Elite athletes such as Usain Bolt, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, and Steve Nash claimed to sleep an average of 10 hours a day (McCann, 2014).

So are you sleep as much as Lebron James?

What happens when you do not get enough sleep?

Without sufficient amount of sleep, your body’s basic metabolism takes a big hit.  Your body’s glucose metabolism slows down by as much as 30-40%.  On top of that, levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) are known to rise.

Why does this matter?

Our body’s main source of energy is glucose and it is stored as glycogen.  As we sleep less, our proper glycogen storage decreases, and thus our energy source reduces.  For any athlete trying to perform at their best, this lack of energy is crucial for optimal performance.

An increase in cortisol levels are linked to memory impairment, mood, physical appearance, insulin resistance (when your cells cannot take-in glucose), and impaired recovery.  Higher cortisol levels are linked to inefficient tissue repair and growth in athletes.  This in turn can prevent an athlete from properly responding to an intense workout or game.  Thus leading to the risk of overtraining, injury, and simply running your body out of fuel.

How can help take yourself to the next level?

A Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory researcher, Cheri Mah, conducted a study on basketball players at the elite college level.  She and her team were able to conclude that sleep was directly related to their on-the-court performance.  “Sleep is an important factor in peak athletic performance”, Mah is quoted saying.  They concluded that “athletes may be able to optimize training and competition outcomes by identifying strategies to maximize the benefits of sleep” (Cheri D Mah, Kenneth E. Mah, Eric J. Kezirian, & William C. Dement, 2011).

As an athlete at any level, it is a struggle with getting enough sleep due to school work, work schedules, social life, classes- everything that goes into the everyday grind.  Now knowing how important sleep is here are some tips on how you can get your rest:

  • Time management– Create a to-do list or schedules for your day and week.  Stick to those plans and set aside enough time for rest.
  • Make priorities– Remember your priorities, and if school, sports, and work are top priorities, sleep must be also.
  • Put your phone down– nighttime light exposure (especially artificial light from electronics) suppresses the production of melatonin, the major hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls sleep and wake cycles.
  • Pre-bed ritual– set up a routine that helps you fall to sleep such as a warm cup of tea (decaffeinated), washing your face, and brushing your teeth.
  • Do not drink to sleep– having an alcoholic drink before bed is not a good idea.  You may feel drowsy, but it is proven that alcohol leads to a poor night’s sleep.
  • Consult a doctor-If nothing is working and you are still suffering from sleep deprivation, go and talk to your physician.
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