Whether you’re a high-level athlete, a hardcore fitness junkie or someone who enjoys the occasional run on the weekend, you hopefully know the importance of rest and recovery. Getting enough rest after a grueling workout gives your body the chance to repair itself, so you can come back stronger and get more gains out of your future training sessions. But have you ever wondered how sleep fits into your post-workout recovery plan? (Hint: It’s more important than you probably think.)
In this guide, we’ll explore the relationship between sleep and recovery, the negative impacts of sleep deprivation on athletic performance and how something as simple as using a weighted blanket can help athletes maximize their sleep and performance on the field.
What Is the Relationship Between Sleep and Recovery?
A poor night’s sleep affects more than just your workouts. Getting too little sleep can disrupt your body's balance of hormones, leading to subtle changes that can negatively impact your recovery.
Sleep deprivation can lead your body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which stimulates the breakdown of protein in your muscles. Cortisol plays an important role in exercise, allowing you to tap into your fat and carbohydrate stores, but too much can slow down the recovery process by causing prolonged muscle tension and stress, reduced blood flow and a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles.
Human Growth Hormone
Research suggests that sleep deprivation can inhibit the release of human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a vital role in the repairing and rebuilding of muscle tissue after exercise. Your body naturally produces human growth hormone, especially at night, with HGH levels typically reaching their peak during the deepest stages of sleep. Because of this, it’s important for athletes to prioritize both the quantity and quality of their sleep.
During sleep, your body produces cytokines, proinflammatory proteins that help fight infection and aid muscle repair and growth. A lack of sleep can decrease the number of cytokines, resulting in illness and minimal muscular adaptation (i.e., fewer gains).
Do Athletes Need More Sleep Than Non-Athletes?
Currently, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that athletic individuals need more sleep than non-athletic individuals. Moreover, the National Sleep Foundation Guidelines make no distinction between athletes and non-athletes with regard to sleeping requirements.
Like non-athletic individuals, age and genetics play the biggest roles in determining how much sleep an athlete needs. For example, high school athletes are considered teens, which means they need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night (per the National Sleep Foundation Guidelines).
How Can Athletes Get Better Sleep?
Although exercise greatly improves sleep quality, many athletes report problems sleeping. Pre-competition worries, hectic training schedules and discomfort caused by injuries are just a few of the many things that can keep athletes tossing and turning at night.
Fortunately, improving sleep for athletes doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are a few sleep hygiene tips to help you maximize your performance on game day.
- Manage Pre-Competition Stress – Everyone gets nervous before a big event, but you don’t need to let your pre-competition nerves ruin your sleep. One way to ease stress before a competition is to wrap yourself in a weighted blanket, which has been known to lower cortisol levels and induce a state of calm and relaxation. Visualization, meditation and diaphragmatic breathing are also useful techniques for combating nerves.
- Disconnect Before Bedtime – Late-night scrolling and Netflix-bingeing can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. To avoid disrupting your sleep, ditch your electronics at least an hour or so before bedtime.
- Get Ahead of Jet Lag – Traveling for a competition? Block out annoying light and get better snooze with a weighted eye mask. Our weighted eye masks create pitch black in any environment, so you can fall asleep faster whether you’re sleeping in a hotel or flying on a plane.
- Budget Enough Time for Sleep – If you want to ensure that you’re getting enough sleep each night, you need to budget that time into your hectic schedule. Start by figuring out how much sleep you need based on your age group. Then, count backward and identify a target bedtime.
- Stay Cool in Bed – In general, athletes have higher body temperatures than those who are non-active. For a better night’s rest, turn down the thermostat before bed and opt for breathable bedding, like a cooling weighted blanket and bamboo sheets with moisture-wicking capabilities.
Sleep Like a Champion with Gravity Blankets
There’s a reason why Olympic athletes are keen on perfecting their bedtime routines. Study after study has shown that getting adequate sleep can boost athletic performance and speed up recovery time, allowing high-level athletes to stay on top of their game.
Want to get more out of your training sessions? Invest in a Gravity Weighted Blanket and start optimizing your sleep for better recovery and performance. Our best-selling weighted blanket uses the power of deep touch pressure to help you sink into a deeper, more restorative sleep.