When you think of an athlete you imagine someone with exceptional skill, ability, and strength. Someone with sharp, strategic intelligence and dedication. You can imagine that they are mindful of their diets and exercises, and committed to practicing their sport regularly. One thing that, perhaps, is not readily associated with an athlete is sleep.

Sleep quality plays a vital role in our over-all health and well-being. It stands to reason that someone putting their body to the test with regular exercise and sports would need to have high-quality sleep to achieve their best results.

Sleep researcher, Dr. W. Christopher Winter, presented two studies at the SLEEP 2012 meeting in Boston that link the length of careers of baseball and football players to the degree of sleepiness in the daytime. (Daytime sleepiness suggests a poor level of sleep.) Essentially the studies emphasized the correlation between good sleep and athletic performance. The study went so far as to suggest that a players’ sleep profile could be used to determine whether or not a player should be obtained at all.

Why is this the case? What does quality sleep truly offer athletes?

Skeletal and Muscular Recovery

Sleep has a dramatic impact on your body. During sleep, your body recovers from exercise, repairs itself, and grows new muscle tissue. Your body maximizes its output of HGH (human growth hormone) during sleep. This hormone is responsible for converting fat into energy, repairing muscles, and strengthening bones- all very important to an athlete. If the body does not have enough HGH, it compensates by producing cortisol -also known as the stress hormone- which does not offer the long-term benefits of HGH. Sustaining poor sleep patterns night after night will prolong your exposure to high cortisol levels; resulting in negative effects like reduced muscle tissue, and a decrease in bone density, among other things. So, by not getting quality sleep your body is not getting the highest quality recovery and is susceptible to various problems that can jeopardize an athletes’ performance.

Rejuvenation and Energy

When you play sports, you expend a considerable amount of energy. Sleep plays a critical part in determining how well the energy is produced and managed. A sugar-based energy, glycogen, is stored in the muscles and used when playing sports or exercising. It is created from the consumption of carbohydrates. When you are asleep the carbohydrates are converted to glycogen (thanks to HGH). As a result, too little sleep means that not enough energy has been created- which results in tired, sluggish performances.

Mental Abilities

Quality sleep not only helps your body to recuperate, but it also benefits the mind greatly. Quick, skillful, thinking is a crucial part of any athlete’s armory. Sleep deprivation or a lack of quality sleep impairs your memory ability, decision-making speeds, reaction times, temperament and overall awareness. All of which are crucial mental attributes in just about every sport. Ensuring that you get the recommended amount of sleep- around seven to eight hours- consistently will help keep you on top of the mental element of the sport.

Sleep is crucial to everyday functions, regardless of whether you are an athlete or not. When you perform at higher levels, quality sleep becomes even more important. If you are struggling to sleep at night, or feel sluggish throughout the day, you may have a sleep disorder that requires diagnosis and care. Visit one of the  Valley Sleep Centers five convenient Valley locations for a sleep consult.