Recovery -optimise your sports performance with sleep (1)

Recovery -optimise your sports performance with sleep (1)
When should I take a nap and how does napping affect my night sleep?
  • Yes, naps are amazing if you are sleep deprived.
  • The duration of a nap depends on how sleep deprived your body is.
  • If you are not sleep deprived then napping reduces the homeostatic drive (= means how long you were awake for, so the longer you were awake for the more drive you have to sleep) to sleep and it has powerful potential to decrease your sleep at night time.
  • The goals around napping is to find the right time for it, so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep at night time.
  • General recommendation is to avoid napping after 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
For example:
In 1999/2000 I trained at the Aquatic Centre of the University of Queensland in Australia. 4 to 5 times each week, I would join swimming coach legend John Carew and his squad (including Olympic swimmers like Kieren Perkins (1500m Gold Medal winner) at 5.30 o’clock in the morning. The swim session plus another workout that usually followed (either run or bike) immediately afterwards would make me very tired. After I ate lunch I would lay down and take a nap for up to one hour.
Can my early morning workouts and a lack of sleep impact my training adaptions?
  • Many amateur athletes have to workout in the morning before work, school or before the kids wake up and commonly don’t go to bed before 9 or 10 o’clock in the evening. Chronicle sleep deprivation is really bad, as research shows in terms of our health. Although, our brain tends to adapt to fatigue, essentially getting used to operating in a sleep deprived state, but our body’s performance level will still drop.
  • Prioritise sleep and rest when you arrive at a point where you feel exhausted. Schedule sleep for a block of time to give the body a chance to recharge the batteries and to get out of a valley of fatigue. Exercising is what we want to do, what makes us happy and helps us to stay fit, however in order to maintain both, our health and our performance level, we need to make sure that we are also getting enough sleep. It is all interwoven.
  • Know how much sleep you need to function properly, observe body signals and then take it from there.
For example:
From my own experience as a former high performance elite athlete and my current work with the athletes I support, is that a drop in performance level or ‘overtraining’ had nothing to do with the amount of training but about their lack of sleep!
Athletes who are highly stressed for example due to financial worries, deaths in family, school exams, shift work, time/climate changes, or high altitude training, that’s when people get overtrained.
There is the theory that you can’t overtrain but under-recover.
How does our ability to recover diverge when we age?
  • Research shows that we don’t get as much deep sleep as we age. When sleep quality drops, people generally feel the need to sleep a bit longer to compensate. An active lifestyle -exercising- definitely helps to get more deep sleep!
  • Older athletes potentially require more recovery because they generally recover slower.
How do you know you had enough sleep?
  • Assess how you’re feeling in the morning within the first 1hr of waking (ideally without coffee) and how you feel throughout the day. If you feel still very tired by 12 o’clock and can’t keep your eyes open then you probably didn’t have enough sleep.
What is a healthy circadian rhyme and what exactly is it?
  • Adults should have a pretty consistent circadian rhythm if they practice healthy habits. Their bedtimes and wake times should remain stable if they follow a fairly regular schedule and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Adults likely get sleepy well before midnight, as melatonin releases into their bodies.
  • Our relatively steady state of alertness over the course of a 16-hour day is due to what scientists call the circadian alerting system, a function of our internal biological clock (body clock). The clock, which is responsible for regulating a vast number of daily cycles, is found in a relatively small collection of neurons deep within the brain. Under normal conditions, the clock is highly synchronized to our sleep/wake cycle. When it is, the clock’s alerting signal increases with every hour of wakefulness, opposing the sleep drive that is building at the same time. Only when the internal clock’s alerting signal drops off does sleep load overcome this opposing force and allow for the onset of sleep.
Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School
What things can mess up our body clock (sleep-wake cycle)?
  • Light (through our phones (social media), computers…)
  • Caffein (consumed after 3pm)
  • High intensity training (high stress) in the evening
  • Electrical devices (smart phone, sleep tracking devices…)
  • Food (eating too much for dinner or too little can mess with your sleep quality and can cause weight gain, because we have more time to eat)
  • Bed room temperature (too warm)
  • Lack of rhythm (shift work, travel, jet leg, foreign environment, staying up all night with a new baby, waking up early in the morning when you should be sleeping..)
  • Stress & anxiety
  • Alcohol
What issues could arise when we mess with our body clock and subsequently don’t get enough sleep?
When we sleep poorly we are more likely to
  • develop issues with our immune & digestive system
  • develop issues with our metabolism (i.e. kids stay up late, then have more time to eat)
  • develop issues with our hormones (i.e. affects hormones that tell us whether we are hungry or full; testosterone (GH) are released while we deep asleep (REM)…etc)
  • affect/reduce our brain performance (ability to learn, decision making, mental alertness, reaction time, moods, anxiety..)
  • perform poorer (this is related to our perception to effort (‘everything’ feels harder)