deprivation

Guest Post: Healthy Sleep During Training is More Important than Getting Some Shut-Eye the Night Before Race Day

Do you really need a good night’s rest the night before a big run? The short answer is yes and no.

Of course getting adequate hours of sleep the night before a race is bound to make you feel ready to take on the world in the morning. And not getting enough sleep is bound to make you feel sluggish. But how much does healthy sleep or the lack of it really affect athletic performance?

A Single Night of Zero/Poor Sleep Has Little to No Effect on Physical Performance

Yep, you read that right. Getting healthy sleep the night before a big race isn’t actually that important for physiological endurance.

While it sounds crazy, it’s also backed by several scientific studies.

In one Dutch study, a control group of men who had healthy sleep and another group of men who had zero sleep the previous night were pitted against each other in 20-minute cycling time trials.

The healthy-sleep group clocked in an average of 7.68km during their trial. And while the researchers expected considerably lower results from the sleep-deprived group, they clocked in a near-identical average of 7.62km. Other physical measurements during the trial, particularly their average heart rate, also came out near-identical.

In another study in 2007, experts from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences analyzed a variety of existing studies on how sleep affects physical performance.

Much to their surprise, the experts found that even a few days of poor sleep translated to stable physiological markers of endurance. But while leg strength, oxygen demand at various speeds, and fatigue resistance were all unaffected by a single night of poor sleep, it was mental cognition that suffered.

And it wasn’t the first time that lack of sleep resulted in poorer mental performance.

The Brain is More Dependent on Sleep than the Rest of the Body

In a 2009 study, European researchers found evidence of decreased endurance in athletes who ran after staying awake for 30 hours. However, they also found that the 30-hour lack of sleep had a very limited effect on the test subjects’ actual cardiorespiratory/thermoregulatory function and pacing. Rather, the lowered performance was a result of their altered perception of effort.

The 11 men who were involved in this study completed 2 running trials. The first trial was after they had normal sleep. The second trial happened 7 days later, and after they were kept awake for 30 hours.

While the test subjects ran farther during the first trial, they reported feeling like they ran the same distance during the second trial. This led researchers to conclude that the decreased endurance was psychological and based mostly on their altered perception of effort (especially since they found evidence that a single night of sleep deprivation had limited effects on indicators of actual physical endurance).

Several past studies also indicate that short-term sleep deprivation can result in poorer memory, longer reaction time, and an unstable mood.

You’re certainly bound to not feel good and ready if you haven’t had enough sleep the night before a big race, but don’t let that feeling fool you. While your brain is telling you that you need sleep, your body could very well be as ready as ever to perform during race day.

If you’ve been training regularly and getting adequate sleep (at least for the past week), getting little to zero sleep the night before race day is unlikely to affect your actual physical performance and endurance.

More Sleep in General is More Important than How You Slept the Previous Night

Instead of the single night before your race, what you should really be concerned about is how you sleep on a regular basis.

In a 2011 study on Stanford basketball players, researchers found that extending sleep to 10 hours per night (for 5 to 7 weeks) resulted in increased performance metrics. They also found similar increases when the study was repeated in other sports like tennis, football, and swimming.

As Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory researcher (and study author) Cheri Mah explains, it’s not just about how you slept for one or two nights. Rather, it’s about “prioritizing sleep over the whole season.

While one night without sleep can be slightly detrimental to your endurance, there are some athletes who say that it makes no difference at all. One of these athletes is American long-distance runner Bobby Curtis, who won the NCAA title for 5,000 meters during his senior year on a somewhat irregular sleep schedule.

Curtis says that while not sleeping a few nights before the race didn’t affect his performance when he won the title, his training did suffer when he didn’t get enough sleep over the last couple weeks.

As Stanford’s Cheri Mah rightly suggests, it’s important for athletes to maintain a consistent sleep schedule that ensures they get adequate sleep.

So instead of worrying about how you’ll be too excited to sleep the night before your big race, focus on getting enough sleep during training. That’s when sleep really counts.

Why It’s Important to Listen To Your Body

Taking care of your body when you are exercising should be your top priority. Without the body there to do the job, you can’t focus your energy into what you enjoy/is good for you. From eating the right food to listening to what your body is wanting and needing, it can be a pretty tough gig to constantly follow up everything that is happening. But there are some things that you may not be noticing with your body that could be a sign of something more meaningful and important going on. Here’s why it’s important to listen to your body.

Sleep

If you’re not feeling refreshed from a good night’s sleep, you probably aren’t getting the amount of hours that you need. Although the recommended is a solid 8 hours, there are few people who can actually achieve this – we wake ourselves up more so than we should by looking at our smartphones in the middle of the night to check the time, or stresses and worries can start to creep upon us. Think about when the last time you slept through solidly was. If you can’t remember, it may be time to start going to bed earlier to try and get your 8 hours in. Another cause of feeling tired and restless when you wake up is sleep apnoea. This can come in two forms – obstructive and central – and it restricts your breathing so that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen while it is trying to rest. A simple sleep test will be able to determine whether or not you have it.

Heart Health

Most people aren’t aware of their heart rate and how fast it is meant to beat – it’s usually between 60 to 100 beats per minute, with a rise considered for exercise. It can be hard to constantly keep a check of your ticker, but if you feel like it’s not working as it should be it’s time to get it checked out before it’s too late. Even an irregular heartbeat can be a sign of something more serious; atrial fibrillation, or afib for short, is a condition that is brought on by a malfunction of the electrical system to your heart. Looking up afib information online is easy and can help massively with keeping you alert to the sign and symptoms of it.

Limbs

Pain in your arms and legs during or after exercise is commonly associated with going a bit too hard on your work out, but if it’s lasting any time longer than it should (a couple of days at the most), and you are feeling completely exhausted by what you have done, it could be a sign of adrenal fatigue. The best thing you can do is head to a doctor to get diagnosed and make sure that you’re not suffering more than you should be.

What’re Your Thoughts

Taking care of your body is of the utmost important, but it’s hard to do it unless you’re really considering the signs and symptoms it is offering to you. If you’re feeling unwell or unusual, don’t consider it as a one-off – get it checked out.

Ally Gonzales is the creator of RunningSoleGirl. The go-to place for everything healthy lifestyle and conditioning for running. She’s a runner, speaks a total of five languages, and is a soon-to-be college freshman majoring in Exercise and Sports Science.

Guest Post: Is a Good Night’s Sleep Critical for a Healthy Life

The answer to that question is yes. Sleep has a very vital role in our lives and is an important requirement for our mental, physical and general well-being. It not only rejuvenates and revitalizes our body but also improves our cognitive functions and strengthens our memory. It affects your life quality plays a very crucial role in life safety.

Your day depends a lot on the quality and duration of your sleep. Your ability to work, feel and behave are all dependent on the quality and duration of your Zzzz’s. Poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide(1), depression(2) and anxiety. Continuous sleep deprivation has also been linked to chronic health problems.

Weight Gain

Sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality can affect your satiety centre and cause you to gain weight. You are more likely to overindulge if you are sleep deprived. Getting a proper 8-hour sleep will ensure you take in fewer calories.

Productivity Issues

It is a no brainer that less sleep equals to less productivity. Not only that, sleep deprivation also causes the inability to think, react and concentrate. It affects your mood and mental health severely and may lead to poor decision-making skills.

Higher Risk of Cardiac Diseases

Patients who suffer from sleep apnea often end up having heart problems. When a person does not get the required amount of sleep, the body releases certain chemicals which keep the body from lowering its blood pressure and heart rate. If sleep deprivation becomes a regular thing, high blood pressure during the day becomes common and can easily lead to cardiovascular issues.

Risk of Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when the human body is unable to break down sugar properly. This causes a starvation of your cells for energy since it is not getting energy through glucose. When the quality of your sleep is poor or you are sleep deprived, your body requires more insulin in order to maintain normal glucose levels. Sleep deprivation affects the body’s stress-control centre and causes hormonal imbalances which lead to problems in the regulation of glucose. When sleeplessness becomes a habit, the insulin producing cells stop proper functioning and give rise to elevated blood glucose levels which can cause diabetes. So, that late night chocolate cravings are not to be tended to if you want to continue eating sweet things later on in life!

Depression

Insomnia is a common occurrence among the depressed patients. People who have issues falling asleep, staying asleep or getting quality sleep are at a higher risk of developing depression as compared to those who get quality sleep(3). Sleep apnea has also been observed to cause depression.

Weak Immune System

Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality also weakens the immune system. Hence, sleep deprived individuals are more likely to catch a flu or fever. The human body produces proteins called cytokines that are released by the immune system to promote sleep. When you have an infection or inflammation or are under a lot of stress, some of these cytokines increase. Sleep deprivation causes the production of these cytokines to decrease. It also causes the infection fighting antibodies to decrease in number, thus weakening the human immune system and making the body vulnerable to common diseases.

Emotional Instability

Feeling irritated and emotionally unstable after a sleep deprived night is not uncommon. Recent studies have shown that a sleep deprived mind loses its ability to think rationally. A sleep deprived brain starts exhibiting primitive behaviour and regresses in its ability to think rationally and logically. Hence, the emotions start running amok.

Many psychiatric disorders that involve emotions are related to sleep deprivation. Abnormal patterns of sleep can cause mental instability. A good night’s sleep is very important to maintain a healthy mind and keep your emotions in check. Instead of going for anti-depressants or other drugs, go for a good night’s sleep and this may just be the simplest cure for your emotional and mental behaviour to get back to normal.

Safety!

Sleep deprivation can quite critically affect your life directly too. Sleep deprived individuals are at a higher risk for accidents on the road or at work. There have been many cases of fatal road accidents when sleep deprived individuals dozed off while driving.

The normal adults require a minimum of 8 hours sleep to lead a healthy life. Getting less than 8 hours can contribute to a great deal of physical as well as mental issues. A lot of people are not aware of the dangers of getting less sleep. They may think that they can function properly after getting only a few hours of sleep but if sleep deprivation becomes a habit, it can take its toll on the person’s health and safety in a horrible way. Your body and your immune system depend greatly on sleep. So, change into your Pj’s, turn off the lights and hit the bed for some Zzzz’s so that you can make sure you live a healthy and fuller life.

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25133759
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16259539
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=16335332&ordinalpos=9&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

Read Eugene’s latest post on sleep and bedroom designs.

Eugene Gabriel has his BSc (Hons.) Degree in Psychology. He has always been fascinated by the effects of good quality sleep, or the lack of it on human productivity and overall well-being. He has helped thousands of individuals suffering from sleeping problems by teaching them about the healthy changes they need to make in their lifestyle in order to sleep peacefully.

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