Sleep: The athlete’s not-so-secret weapon

The Athlete Program prescribes at least one day of full rest per week within its core programming to ensure good recovery when training. While a good balance might see the week split into 3 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, 1 day off, athletes are encouraged to do what feels right, which could mean one of those rest days incorporates a recovery-orientated activity; perhaps mobility work, a gentle walk, or maybe a non-intense dip in the pool. But what is essential every day for every athlete to ensure good recovery is sleep.

With busy lifestyles and full schedules, sleep can sometimes be put on the back burner. It’s probably one of the most important, but most underestimated forms of recovery.

More than two thirds of our daily Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is produced while sleeping. HGH aids in the recovery from strenuous training sessions by rapidly repairing our muscle tissue. Even if the next day in the program is a scheduled rest, a good night’s sleep is vital to boost HGH levels and recover adequately.

Its rejuvenating properties are why HGH is also referred to as the Youth Hormone. HGH levels decline as we age, but quality sleep helps to maintain those levels, and so preserves the condition of neural tissue, muscles, bones, and skin – it’s why we need our beauty sleep!

Being deprived of sleep severely impacts hormones, which negatively impacts the body’s ability to manage fat. A bad night’s sleep can affect insulin resistance, causing an increase in blood pressure. This leads to craving sugary foods and storing fat. Good quality sleep will regulate the appetite better, improves metabolism, and makes weight management far easier.

There’s always time for bed

Sticking to your program will certainly encourage improved performance and progression in the finer skills of your training, but working on developing better sleep habits is an essential part of your programming.

It’s not just our muscles that have been put under pressure when training, but also the brain. Blood flow to the brain increases whilst asleep in order to detox and “clear the mind”, the process of which is ten times more active than when awake. Chronic sleep deprivation is one of the main causes of brain-degenerative disease – getting good quality sleep really is essential for health and longevity.