An awful amount of hard work, dedication and sacrifice goes behind every successful athlete and these start right from a tender age in the case of most people. During my daughter’s annual day function at school last year a boy from her own class was felicitated by the principal for achieving the youngest black belt award in karate. Later, his mom was called upon stage to share a few words and one of the first things that she spoke was about his daily practise of 2 hours, his avoidance of processed foods including ice creams, juice and even a few fries and his tireless involvement in the training routine which have rewarded him with the accolades. Almost 90% of the world athletic champions eat, breathe and dedicate their life for sports. Each player conditions his/her body and mind by following a disciplined eating pattern, lifestyle and physical activity routine. Besides all these there is yet another important factor that affects their performance tremendously-sleep.
Resetting Schedules According to Sleep Timings
Sleep has become an unaffordable commodity in today’s busy world. If there is one thing in the schedule people are ready to compromise without hesitating its only sleep. While the general recommendations by experts include 7-9 hours of sleep for every individual people these days don’t even get 5-6 hours of quality sleep. For athletes, the need to sleep is even more. It’s the duration and quality of sleep achieved that makes it possible for them to win. But traditionally sleep was not the primary focus of athletes who were involved in vigorous training but maybe it was also because that during earlier years individuals did get their needed share of quality sleep (as streaming sites, social media sites or online surfing were not popular and readily available). But now, with more athletes losing games over sleeplessness we have research publications showing that sleep is critically important for physical and academic performance, cognitive function, recovery from athletic exertion and injury, mind fitness and heart health. The research published on the effect of sleep on athletes in a reputed journal showed that sleeping for 8-9 hours was linked to a 61% lower risk of injury, improved mental performance, increased accuracy in physical tasks and quicker reaction time. But sadly, almost 42% of the study participants (athletes) reported poor sleep schedules.
Exercise leads to muscle fatigue, depletes energy and makes the person tired. We drink fluids and eat the right foods but these are not 100% of rest and recovery. The immediate energy refuelling following training and competition is indeed important but REM sleep is an undeniable way to provide the mind and body with the required energy to perform. In the absence of sleep, the carbs, fat and proteins that you get from the food you eat don’t work efficiently to produce glycogen and convert them into the energy needed for yet another day of vigorous training or activity. There is a great chance that poor sleep routines increase the risk of fatigue and poor focus, decrease energy levels and slow down recovery time too after performance. This has all been clearly proved by a study on a group of basketball players at the Stanford University. All the players were asked to add 2 hours of extra sleep time to their regular schedule and results were impeccable-their speed increased by 5%, free throws showed yet another 9% improvement in accuracy and they also felt happier.
Its simple to define but athletes follow a rigorous training and competition schedule, travel a lot, engage in academics, overtrain and become stressed all of which can affect the likelihood of achieving the desired quantity of sleep. It is necessary that they need to be carefully monitored to come up with intervention policies that can promote their sleep performance and health.
Matching Sleep Requirements
A definite schedule helps each of us plan our day and during regular training days athletes too can plan a schedule to go to bed and get up at the same time daily. Those going for a competition are requested to cut down on caffeine and alcohol intake at least 2-3 days before the start of the competition as these could disturb your sleep routine. If the competition requires travelling it is always better to reach the destination at least a couple of days earlier. This gives you enough time to settle down and help your body adjust to your regular sleep schedule. Above all, don’t be stressed, take adequate rest and avoid sleep medications as much as possible to avoid any changes in sleep quality. Improve your sleep quality with tips from www.firsteatright.com that can be easily followed.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.