You probably notice that glorious bright-eyed, alert feeling that comes the morning after a good night’s sleep—that’s your brain doing its routine job of keeping itself sharp and your mental health, well, healthy. But there’s plenty more happening in your body during those nighttime hours: Among other benefits, getting enough shut-eye helps your muscles recover faster, keeps your hormones balanced, and reduces injuries, both chronic and acute.
But to fully reap those benefits, you need to make sure you’re logging enough sleep: Serious athletes require more than the average adult, as active bodies need additional time to recover from their workouts. Elite athletes often sleep up to 10 hours per night, compared to an average of 7-8 hours for most adults. (And you may need even more after an endurance event or other particularly strenuous adventure.)
Here is a more in-depth look at why getting a good night’s sleep is so important for your athletic performance, no matter what type of pursuit you’re getting after.
1. Faster Muscle Recovery
Muscles need to repair and recover after intense usage—who hasn’t felt the familiar burn of thrashed quads, shoulders, or feet the day following an intense workout? Since energy output is significantly reduced during hours of rest, nutrients can be more efficiently used to aid in muscle repair. As you sleep, hormones that help speed up the recovery process are also released (more on that below). On the flip side, if you aren’t resting your body, your muscles will not have the opportunity to recover from stress and fatigue—making your next workout even harder to get through.
2. Improved Reaction Times
It’s a rare athlete who notches a PR after a rough night’s sleep. Indeed, sleeping poorly can negatively impact your reflexes, and slower reaction times can make or break your performance during an important race, game, or event. In fact, poor sleep the night before can make your brain cells sluggish in a similar way that knocking back a few too many alcoholic drinks can. Whether you’re serving for the championship title in your local tennis league or holding your place in the peloton, you want your reflexes and reaction times to be as sharp as possible, and a good night’s sleep is a critical part of that.
3. Keeps Key Hormone Levels Balanced
Most athletes understand the significance of getting good REM sleep, which is just one of the many fascinating physical processes that occur during quality sleep. During this deep part of the sleep cycle, growth hormones and cortisol are released, which help promote healthy muscle repair and regulate metabolic processes. This is especially important after a grueling day getting after it—as these hormones help ensure that your body is burning the fuel you’re taking in.
4. Keeps Your Intensity Up During Killer Workouts
Whether you’re cranking out a big-mileage training ride, setting the timer for lung-busting sprints, or lifting heavy weights, being well-rested enables you to work harder and longer during tough workouts. General fatigue—both mental and physical—has a negative impact on your ability to put forth maximum effort in speed, endurance, and strength. You’ll lift harder and go farther with adequately rested muscles, and you’ll be able to maintain a higher level of clarity and focus during particularly taxing efforts.
5. Higher Levels of Sustained Energy
This might seem like a no brainer, but the better rested you are, the more energy is available for your athletic endeavors. Your central nervous system is responsible for muscle reaction, and it needs to recharge during sleep to do its job correctly. You also will repair your muscles in a more sustainable sense, allowing you to start your workout from a healthier place the next day.
6. Reduced Risk of Injury
Good quality sleep can have a significant impact on lowering acute injuries. On a cellular level, your muscles are repairing during sleep. Sleep also helps prepare your brain for the following day’s effort. All of these combine for better decision making, a higher level of muscle recovery, and stronger performance—which lead to a reduced risk of acute injuries.
7. Improved Long-Term Fitness
Over the long term, quality sleep and consistently good sleep routines and patterns can help keep active adults healthy and injury-free. Muscle recovery and rest will have an overall benefit to extending athletic careers and helping avoid overuse injuries and longer term wear-and-tear.
8. Mental Sharpness
Quality of sleep impacts all areas of brain function, including balance, memory, and focus. A well-rested brain will be able to stay sharp longer under pressure, react faster, and maintain a higher level of concentration than a tired brain—and your athletic performance will reap the benefits.
For products proven to help you wake up rested and refreshed, check out the many partners using 37.5 Technology in their sleep products.
Written by Shaine Smith for RootsRated Media in partnership with 37.5.
Featured image provided by Vladislav Muslakov