There is one simple thing that you can do every single day to perform better, stay healthy, reduce stress and enhance your life overall. This oh-so important tactic is – sleep. Proper sleep offers great health benefits far beyond reducing yawns during the day.
Many individuals, including students, athletes and busy adults, pride themselves on the ability to survive on limited sleep, or even brag about pulling an “all-nighter.” Unfortunately, for every group mentioned, poor sleep has a negative effect of their bodies. Students lose the ability to focus in class, athletes can’t perform at their peak performance, and adults start seeing the negative health effects that many years of inadequate sleep can cause.
The Magic of Sleep
Many things happen to the body during the sleep cycle. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is down regulated during the hours that we sleep. If an individual does not get enough sleep, they will have increased cortisol levels, which is associated with inability to manage weight, whether that be weight gain or weight loss. Conversely, HGH (human growth hormone) reaches its peak during the hours that we sleep. This hormone, which many associate with drugs that bodybuilders or professional athletes take, is key in muscle growth and recovery. It occurs naturally in the body during sleep and after exercise, which is why it is vital that athletes capitalize on the opportunity to build muscle, simply by sleeping. If an individual does not get enough sleep, it will stunt the release of HGH, which will decrease the body’s ability to recover from a training session and build muscle.
How much sleep is optimal?
We think of eight hours as the ideal amount of sleep, and as a general rule, this is accurate. However, sleep needs are different for each person, with some groups needing more or less.
- Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep.
- After 26, some individuals may need less sleep than during their early adult years.
- Teenagers need between 8-10 hours of sleep (sleep fuels growth during puberty).
- Athletes of all ages need more sleep due to the physical demand on their bodies and the greater need for muscle recovery.
Personally, I require at least seven and a half hours of sleep. If I get less than that, I “hit a wall” during the day, with lagging performance, inability to focus and a general sense of fatigue. My requirements are heightened, as I am active in my role as a performance specialist at Sports Advantage powered by EXOS
, and spend many hours training and preparing for the upcoming 2018 Olympics with USA Women's Hockey. I am up at 4:30 a.m. most mornings, so that means I am in bed by 9 p.m. I make my sleep a priority, as I know how important it is to help me be at my best. And, I encourage my clients and athletes to do the same.
At Sports Advantage powered by EXOS
we have a four pillar approach to performance: Mindset, Nutrition, Movement and Recovery. We place focus on each of these pillars to help better the lives of our clients, but a lack of sleep can negate a lot of the progress made. Sleep is a major part of the recovery process, and that recovery is just as important as how we fuel our bodies, how we move and exercise, and our approach and mindset to everyday life.
If you are struggling to sleep well, you may benefit from a free sleep screening from Altru’s Sleep Center.
Monique Lamoureux-Morando is a performance specialist with Sports Advantage powered by EXOS. Monique is currently a member of the USA Women's Hockey team. She enjoys spending time with her dogs (Millie and George) and family when she is not training and skating.