Wellness Wednesday: The Importance of Adopting Better Sleep Habits

Coaches tell swimmers all the time about things they can do inside and outside the pool to get better. One thing that we always hear is to “sleep more,” especially before important races. After rushing to turn in the last piece of homework, or the anxious race strategy keeping you up the night before a big race, it can be hard to sleep. Here are a few ways that establishing quality sleep habits can help you improve your athletic performance: 

Why Sleeping Is Important for Athletic Performance

After a long day of training, our bodies sometimes feel like they have been put through the shredder. Sleeping generally helps us feel ready to train the next day, but here are some of the specifics on how it helps athletic performance. 

Staying healthy in the long term is the best way to keep performance consistent. Sleeping drops your heart rate, which allows it to rest after being exercised. More specifically, allowing your heart to rest means that cells and tissues repair. The changes in heart rate and breathing through the stages of sleep promote heart health. Your body also develops cytokines which help the immune system fight infections. 

Sleep also helps an athlete’s mental game. Since you consolidate and retain memories while you sleep, the pathways in the brain that allow you to learn and make memories are established while sleeping. Loss of sleep has been linked to a lessened ability to make decisions, which is important when training. Quality sleep helps with mental health by improving mood and lowering the risk of depression. 

There is also a study done on swimming-specific aspects that were improved. Male and female athletes who increased their sleep to 10 hours had faster reaction times, faster turns, increased distance per stroke, and faster 15-meter sprints. 

Train the Brain

According to Dr. Rebecca Robins, who instructs at the Harvard Medical School and is also a sleep scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, habits help your brain understand that it is time to sleep. The transition into being awake and thinking into sleeping can be hard, but cueing your brain can help the change! 

What Are Habits That Can Help You Sleep

According to the CDC and the organization of sleep education, being consistent in the time you get up and go to bed helps your body get used to the natural rhythms of sleep. Your sleeping space is also important, as a quiet and dark bedroom at a comfortable temperature helps with staying within sleep. Additionally, removing screens from the room or putting them on “sleep mode” will help preserve your sleep. 

How To Make Habits Stick 

Habits are something that all swimmers are familiar with. Making better sleep habits takes dedication, just like making technique changes or attendance at practice. It is okay to miss one every once in a while, but maintaining consistency works. One way to establish sleep habits is to think about the end goal. Why do you want to improve your sleep? Why is it so important to you? These questions can help motivate your ability to stay with a sleep schedule. 

Are there any habits that we didn’t mention? Share with everyone in the comments below.

Source link