Sleep is an essential component of human health and well-being, and its significance is heightened in the setting of athletic performance. Regardless, many factors in the sporting environment might have a negative impact on athletes’ sleep and subsequent recovery. A recent systematic review sought to synthesise the most recent research on sleep interventions designed to improve nightly rest and consequent performance in athletes.
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Sleep is a crucial component of an athlete’s training regimen. It provides the body with the opportunity to repair muscle tissue and replenish energy stores, while also consolidating memory and skills learned during the day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and functioning. However, the sleep needs of an athlete might be higher due to the physical and mental stress they undergo during training and competition.
The study, which was published earlier today in SpringerLink, looked at 25 intervention trials done between 2011 and 2021. Sleep hygiene, naps, sleep extension, light manipulation, cold water immersion, mindfulness, or a combination of two or more methods were all used in these research. The most effective strategies to improve sleep and performance were sleep extension and naps.
Researchers found that increasing sleep duration through naps or night-time sleep could positively impact physical and cognitive performance. More specifically, extending sleep length by 46-113 minutes in athletes who sleep on average 7 hours each night could be a general advice for future sleep extension programmes. A 20-90-minute nap during the day can improve performance outcomes after a regular night and restore performance decrements to baseline levels following a night of partial sleep restriction.
The results from mindfulness and light manipulation interventions showed potential, however further research is required to substantiate these findings. Interestingly, sleep hygiene practices, the elimination of electronic devices at bedtime, and cold water immersion did not exhibit any significant impact on sleep quality or subsequent performance and recovery.
Importance of wearable tech
These findings have far-reaching implications for the wearable technology industry, particularly for devices that monitor and improve sleep. Wearable technology can play an important part in putting these results into action by giving precise sleep data, assisting athletes in understanding their sleep patterns, and recommending personalised therapies to improve sleep length and quality.
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Wearable gadgets, for example, can monitor sleep length and quality, notifying athletes when their sleep is insufficient or interrupted. They can also send reminders or alarms for scheduled naps or bedtime to ensure athletes receive the necessary amount of sleep.
The findings are also important for wearables that dish out recovery-type stats. Garmin, Whoop and Polar are just a couple of examples of brands that offer these types of metrics.
Putting the findings into practise
Based on the study’s findings, consider using the following measures to improve recovery and performance:
- Extend your sleep: If you regularly sleep 7 hours per night, aim to increase your sleep length by 46-113 minutes. This may imply going to bed earlier or rising later.
- Take naps: Include a 20-90-minute nap in your daily routine, especially if you’ve had a night of limited sleep.
- Use wearable tech track your sleep patterns and provide insights into your sleep quality.
While more research is needed, this systematic review provides evidence that increasing sleep duration, whether at night or by napping, is an effective intervention for improving athletes’ physical and cognitive performance. Of course, everyone’s sleep requirements differ. Utilise the data from your wearable technology to better understand your individual sleep patterns and create a personalised sleep strategy.
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