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Go to bed! — Whisper Running | Sport Psychology

One of the perks of having a say in curriculum decisions in the Health department at Clark College is that I can update my classes with the most recent data as information in the world of Health changes and adapts. Finding evidence-based research is a priority, as is the dissemination of my workload. Most recently, with a teen under the roof who is plagued by the incessant grasp of social media and gaming, thus inhibiting regular sleep patterns, I leaned on my students in a discussion forum to “find cognitive and/or somatic benefits of sleep.” In addition to the benefits, students provided a plethora of relevant and relatable information for not only the students in the class, but also for those involved in sport.

 As the topic of sleep pertains to emotional health, an article on WebMd discusses the impact of the chronic lack of sleep saying, “when you have insomnia, you’re five times more likely to develop depression, and your odds of anxiety or panic disorders are even greater.”  The article continues into athletic achievements stating, “If your sport requires quick bursts of energy, like wrestling or weightlifting, sleep loss may not affect you as much as with endurance sports like running, swimming, and biking. But you’re not doing yourself any favors.  Besides robbing you of energy and time for muscle repair, lack of sleep saps your motivation, which is what gets you to the finish line. You’ll face a harder mental and physical challenge — and see slower reaction times.”

Coincidentally, on August 16, I was working with athletes on plyometric drills.  This particular drill was the first drill of many variations, a rather simple task of bunny hopping over alternating 18” and 6” hurdles.  The reaction time of Athlete A was .27s from landing to take-off over the 6” hurdle.  The reaction time of Athlete B was .19s from landing to take-off over the same hurdle.  If both athletes take 1200 steps in a 1-mile race, Athlete A would be 96-seconds slower than Athlete B in this race.  Although this observation does not account for sleep, say the athletes achieved the same amount of sufficient sleep the night before and you can imagine an even greater performance gap had athlete A been sleep deprived.  Ultimately, as the article states, “Proper rest sets you up for your best performance.”

Of equal or greater importance to note is the release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland while we sleep.  At the onset of sleep, this gland releases an abundance of growth hormone which is responsible for healing from a hard day of work.  Just as worthy, however, is the continued release of this integral hormone throughout a restful slumber.  Smaller releases of growth hormone continue through the night allowing for optimal healing.  As a caution for those who choose to stay up later than they should yet must awake at the same regular hour in the morning, less growth hormone is released and potential healing decreases, along with the aforementioned benefits of a good night’s rest (Takahshi, et al. 1968).

Want to perform well on a test?  Adopt a regular sleep schedule.  According to an article in Neurology, medical residence made 36% more serious medical errors when compared with interns who had more regular sleep patterns.  The article states, “In addition to the behavioral data, there is also a biologically plausible mechanism for sleep benefiting memory: the hippocampal-neocortical dialogue. Simplified, this hypothetical model asserts that, in wakefulness, information is encoded in the hippocampus. During the subsequent slow wave sleep, the encoded memory trace is replayed by the hippocampus; the movement of information between the neocortex and hippocampus then repeats over each sleep cycle. This reiterative process is thought to facilitate consolidation of memory traces.”  The short?  Review the days (school) notes prior to sleep and your brain may store it in the long-term memory bank! 

Still with me?

With school back in session and families returning to the academic year routine, here are some ways to improve sleep patterns for the betterment of one’s health, wellness, and performance:

  • Create and practice a bedtime routine.

  • Increase bright light exposure (get more sun) during the day.

  • Be sure your sleep space is quiet, dark, relaxing, and cool (temperature).

  • Remove electronic devices from the bedroom.

  • Pay attention to foods and beverages consumed in the hours leading up to bedtime and whether they impact your ability to rest comfortably.  Personally, caffeinated or high sugar beverages give me the leg shakes, so I have learned to refrain from consuming them with a late dinner.

  • Morning or daytime exercise.

  • Reduce irregular or long daytime naps.

  • Reduce evening blue light exposure.

  • Write in a journal before bed.

  • Practice Progressive Relaxation Training (see video).

 Coach Dave’s sleep prescription: Turn off electronics at 7pm, read, journal, review class notes, or play a board game before bed, and be in bed by 9:30pm.

 More great resources:

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