Sports and sleep - What is the connection?

To celebrate the Olympics, we are here to talk about how sleep links with sports. This year's Olympics has been fantastic, and it may have inspired you to take up a sport for yourself or consider becoming more athletic. Let’s dive into the effects sport has on our sleep with the help of Aspire.

How does sleep affect athletic performance?

Lack of sleep can affect many aspects of our day-to-day life and leave you with long-term health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, immune system deficiency, and also dramatically impact your mental health. Lack of sleep can be caused by stress, health issues, financial worries, trauma, and mental health and so many other leading factors that can often be hard to control.

Sleep deprivation reduces your ability to react quickly and to keep a clear mind, which negatively impacts your performance ability whilst being active or playing sports. A University of California study concluded that injury rates in students heightened during games, after a night of 6 hours sleep or less.

Another study at Stanford University proved that lack of sleep caused basketball players to lose up to 5% of their top sprint speed and up to 10% of their acceleration. This same study also proved that basketball players were 15% weaker when sleep-deprived than when well-rested. This is due to their muscle fatigue kicking in a lot faster due to a lack of sleep, suggesting that sleep also impacts muscular function, which is vital for athletic performance.

The benefits of sleep on athletic performance

Sleep significantly impacts so many aspects of our wellbeing, such as physical development, cognitive performance, and emotional regulation which can all lead to a positive quality of life. Sleep is also an integral part of the body's recovery and adaptive process between exercise, which is essential for athletes, with accumulating evidence suggesting that increased sleep time and quality improves performance in both training and competing.

During the time you are asleep, the body releases a hormone that can slow breathing down and drops blood pressure to give the heart a rest. This causes the muscles in your body to relax and in turn, reduce inflammation which is vital for athletes that need to repair injuries or muscles tension to continue high performance.

Olympic sleep facts

In this year's Olympic Games, athletes shared concerns about their sleeping situation, as they were given cardboard beds to sleep on during their stay. Distance runner Paul Chelimo, took to Twitter to show Olympic fans where he would be sleeping during his stay, which was a single cardboard bed covered in Olympics 2020 themed bedding.

The bed itself is made by the Japanese company, Airweave, who created the beds out of renewable materials to help the Olympics become more ethical. Not only this but the cardboard beds were also designed to be stronger than both wood and steel and able to withstand the pressure of up to 440 pounds.

The interest that Olympic trainers have taken into sleep, has increased now more than ever. Experts now recommend that each olympian has exactly 7-9 hours of sleep per night, which is around the same amount as a normal person. However, this is enforced more than usual on each individual to obtain maximum rest, muscle strength, and healing.