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Most people believe that in order to achieve optimal performance, you must train harder. However, athletes forget to consider the importance of real rest. It is no secret that recovery is a major factor in athletic performance and overall well-being. Although recovery is a hot topic in fitness magazines, the importance of sleep is often overlooked.

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Without a doubt, athletes at all levels balance busy schedules, yet surprisingly, these schedules seem to compromise the most important part of the day. When one sleeps, the brain processes the information from the day and adapts the skills practiced.

Athletes of all ages should be getting between seven to ten hours of sleep each night. During sleep, muscle growth occurs. In other words, the weight room isn’t the place to get stronger. Not only does sleep aid your body, but is also directly correlated with memory, creativity, weight management, academic learning, stress, and depression. Since most sports require the ability to process information very quickly and react, athletes need to ensure that they get enough sleep in order to maintain high levels of focus, motivation, and attention. Insufficient sleep can also decrease glucose metabolism, which fuels the brain and body for mental and physical performance. Immune function can also be impaired, which puts athletes at a greater risk of illness.

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Strategies to optimize sleep:

  • Establish a routine Your body is like a clock. Going to sleep and waking up at the same timeevery day will eventually become habitual, ultimately enhancing your dailyfunction.
  • Turn off all devices and screens 20 to 30 minutes before going to bed
  • Avoid over-the-counter sleep medications and/or stimulants Unless prescribed by a doctor, it is important to avoid other sleep medicationsas your body can become dependent upon it. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before bed is important. Exercise is a natural stimulant, so if you are having trouble falling asleep, try to exercise earlier in the day.
  • Have a comfortable sleeping environment and limit naps The ideal sleeping condition is in a dark, cool and quiet space. Ideal nap time is between 20 and 30 minutes. Anything longer sends yourbody clock into confusion.

Hope these tips are helpful. Sleep well.

Photo Credit: Unsplash