It is almost stating the obvious! Everyone knows the importance of sleep, having experienced its effect for themselves. Whether you have an active lifestyle – with a regular sports activity – or not, sleeping properly is essential. Each person (depending on their needs) must find the right balance and, above all, be mindful of avoiding a lasting deficit of sleep.
For runners, the sleeping phase is a key time when the muscles can reconstitute their sugar reserves, the tissues that have been damaged during training can repair themselves and the mental fatigue that has accumulated during the day can be eliminated.
Yann Le Meur, a researcher in the physiology of physical exercise, points out the following:
"significant nocturnal activity can be observed not only in the muscles, but also in the tendons and bones. For this reason, sleep is particular important during periods of intense training. The more you run, the more crucial, the nocturnal recovery phase becomes. "
Reducing the Risk of Injury by Sleeping Well
Many scientific studies have recently been devoted to demonstrating the importance of sleep in the prevention of injuries as well as in benign infectious episodes in highly trained sportsmen and women.
The following observed results are worth retaining:
Insufficient hours of sleep is the number one factor in the increased risk of injuries.
Sportsmen and women who sleep for an average of 8 hours per night will injure themselves 1.7 times more than those who sleep less than 8 hours a night.
When subjected to a high intensity training regime, trained sportsmen and women are four times more likely to get sick if their sleep is disturbed compared with those who get a good night's sleep.
The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation on Health
There are many consequences and they increase if excessively short nights become the norm – for a period of several months or several years.
Weight gain: five consecutive nights of sleep deprivation (actual and/or felt) will result in a weight gain of 1 kg, according to the statistics.
Stroke: risk multiplied by four after several weeks of sleep deprivation.
Cancers: a link has been established between the lack of sleep and certain types of cancer (breast, bowel, etc.)
A Few Tips for Sleeping Well
Avoid interval training after the middle of the afternoon. Training sessions involving fast heart rates can have a dramatic effect on delaying the time needed to get sleep.
Modify your diet. Advice:
Eat your evening meal early (so that your digestion has finished before you go to bed).
Avoid high-calorie evening meals to relieve the load on your stomach.
Keep your caffeine intake after 2 pm to a minimum and reduce your consumption of alcohol.
Keep your bedroom temperature cool and remove any screens (television, computer and maybe your mobile phone in particular) from your immediate environment.
Short naps (lasting about twenty minutes) are ideal for boosting cognitive performance during the second half of the day. When taken after lunch, they will also have a positive effect on the training sessions planned for the late afternoon. A body that is well rested is likely to perform better!