Those fitness conversations which solely focus on exercise and diet are important, but all too often they overlook the necessity of sufficient sleep. No matter who you are, the health drawbacks of sleep-deprivation can be devastating for your overall well-being and can cause a dramatic decline in your mood as well as increase your risk for obesity.
For athletes, however, the consequences can be even more troublesome, sometimes making or breaking your entire game. Here are some of the ways that a bad night’s sleep could be affecting your athletic lifestyle.
Your Energy Levels
Perhaps the most obvious impact from suffering through a rough night is that your natural rejuvenation process has not taken place. Studies have related this lack of energy with a myriad of biological ramifications. For starters, there has been an observable decrease in glycogen, which is a form of glucose that stores the fuel needed for your body to function. Then there is the reduction of testosterone, which is imperative for physical strength and muscle mass in both genders. And finally, the behavior of your metabolism is altered, messing with your appetite while incorrectly distributing your depleting resources.
It doesn’t take an athlete to tell you that energy is essential to peak performance, and without the correct levels, you will run out of steam rather rapidly.
Your Chance of Injury
Whenever your body is not operating at its best, you are more vulnerable to potential accidents. Without the appropriate technique, your foot may land in the wrong position or you won’t react quick enough to prevent an item from colliding with your person. Lack of sleep is also reported to slow the immune system down, meaning that your cell regeneration cannot complete its job properly and any healing process will be much more gradual. Furthermore, there has also been a connection suggested between sleep-deprivation and increased pain sensitivity.
Sleeping in an unnatural position can manifest in some physical discomforts too, by placing a strain on your muscles and stiffening your joints. Participating in sporting activities with an inflexible spine or arms is hardly conducive to an enjoyable game, and it may be time to rethink your sleeping strategy. Swap your regular pillows for orthopedic variations, purchase a new mattress, and in the meantime, alleviate some of the pain with a reliable shoulder support or a deep tissue massage.
Your Reaction Time
There have been some fascinating studies which draw parallels between the lack of sleep and the intoxicating effects of alcohol. In fact, Harvard Medical School released a report which stated that one all-nighter produces the same diminishing outcome as drinking four beers.
It goes without saying that you could never play your best game while inebriated, and this is no different in an absence of rest. In any competitive activity, you need to assess risks and make decisions within rapid time frames, and even a single hesitation in the wrong direction can result in the loss of a match, or (even worse) a serious injury.
Much like your reaction time, all motor functions are negatively reduced by sleep-deprivation, and your hand-eye coordination is one of the first to go. This impairment is particularly noticeable during sporting activities which rely on your ability to catch something or to accurately predict the pathway of where an item should go. This includes tennis, basketball, pool, soccer, bowling, and baseball, but it will more than likely have adverse consequences on almost any physical endeavor.
Unless your opponent is in a similar state of aberration, your sleep deficiency will leave you with a difficult disadvantage, and you run the probable risk of letting your team (and yourself) down.
Finally, of all the burdens that a disrupted sleep cycle contributes to, one of the most widely recognized is the obstruction of memory function. In this state, your brain will struggle to save new information or adequately recall any previous memories which could serve you in your current game. Accordingly, any hope of developing a strategy will be severely inconvenienced, and your competitor may outwit you in record time.
If sleep-deprivation is a frequent nightmare for you, it is recommended that you speak to a medical professional about your options. By working together to uncover the root cause of your insomnia, you should hopefully be on your feet and running during the day, while effortless catching z’s all through the night.