The importance of sleep for recovery


Written by Lewis Craig of Pogo Physio….

Sleep is an important part of recovery for any athlete. We exist in a training world where there is a delicate balance between training hard and recovering to maximize performance, while avoiding injury. Tracking our training volume is crucial, but that doesn’t mean neglecting the other crucial part of the equation: recovery. “Why was I hurt? is a question every athlete should ask. When the training volume is perfect, the loads are well controlled, the answer to the question may be due to poor recovery. Recovery involves many different elements, one of the most crucial of which is sleep.

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Looking at the literature on the importance of sleep, there are many studies linking sleep to injury or physical and cognitive performance.

  • Finestone and Milgrom (2008) found that sleep plays a role in the development of stress fractures. By reducing walking load and introducing a recommended minimum of 6 hours of sleep per night, there was a 60% reduction in the incidence of stress fractures.
  • A review by Watson (2017) highlighted that the accumulating evidence on increased sleep duration and improved sleep quality in athletes is associated with improved performance and success in competition. Additionally, better sleep can reduce the risk of injury and disease in athletes, not only by optimizing health, but also potentially improving performance through increased participation in training.
  • Knowles et al. (2018) found that insufficient sleep impairs maximal muscle strength in compound movements when performed without specific interventions designed to increase motivation. They point out that if sleep is insufficient, strategies to supplement motivation, such as group training, caffeine ingestion, or training before prolonged periods of wakefulness, can help groups perform training effectively. in resistance.
  • Milewski et al. (2014) found that adolescent athletes who slept an average of less than 8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have sustained an injury than athletes who slept ≥ 8 hours.

  • A systematic review by Bonnar et al. (2018) reviewed several interventions to improve performance, including sleep extension and naps, sleep hygiene, and post-exercise recovery strategies. Evidence suggests that extending sleep had the most beneficial effects on later performance.
  • A review by Simpson et al. (2017) point out that the domains of athletic performance (eg speed and endurance), neurocognitive function (eg attention and memory) and physical health (eg. risk of disease and injury and weight maintenance) are all negatively affected by insufficient sleep or experimentally modeled sleep restriction. Additionally, adults (athletes or not) have been found to have poor self-reported sleep duration and quality. In light of this, athletes may need more careful monitoring and intervention to identify those at risk and promote adequate sleep to improve both performance and overall health (Watson, 2017 Simpson, 2017).
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Sleep improvement strategies (Bird, 2003)

  • Strategies to optimize sleep quality and quantity include approaches to increase total sleep time, improve the sleep environment, and identify potential sleep disorders.
  • Other sleep recommendations include: (Bird, 2013)
    • Amount of sleep – a common generalization is 7-9 hours, although teenagers or those with heavy training may need more than 10 hours
    • Routine and regular sleeping habits – maintain a regular schedule of coming and going, avoid using the computer or TV in bed, eliminate the bedroom clock, avoid coffee/nicotine or alcohol just before to go to bed.
    • Siesta – limited to 30 min and avoided in the late afternoon or early evening
    • Post-Training/Competition Recovery – Reducing muscle soreness, inflammation and soreness can lead to better quality sleep
    • Reduce worry and anxiety – the psychological skills of relaxation, goal setting, imagery and self-talk have been shown to be particularly relevant in influencing the competitive anxiety response in athletes. The use of pre-bedtime relaxation techniques such as positive suggestion and visualization is recommended as part of the sleep routine to ensure a clear mind and a relaxed state at bedtime. Mobile apps that help people practice mindfulness skills, for example, could prove effective in improving mental recovery (Birrer et al., 2012).

If you are monitoring the training load, great! If you add good recovery and sleep habits, you’ll be well on your way to minimizing injury risk and maximizing performance.

Written by Lewis Craig of Pogo Physio….

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