Whether you heard it from your mom, coach, trainer, friend, or the internet, we all know that sleep is vital for good health, especially if you've been active all day! But how important is sleep really? Almost everyone at some point in their lives will be unable to get those 8 hours of shuteye. But is missing an hour or two of sleep that big of a deal?
Look no further as I'm here to answer all those questions for you!
YES! Sleep is fundamental to both athletes and non-athletes alike. It helps us recover and grow, both physically and cognitively. Having constant sleep disruptions can lead to both long-term and short-term consequences, including increased stress, mood swings, reduced quality of life, memory, and overall lower cognitive and physical performance.
Studies have also shown that sleep can enhance athletic performance as well. In this study on basketball players, players with more sleep demonstrated a faster timed sprint, better shooting accuracy, reaction time, and overall vigor. It's not a stretch to say that sleep is as important, or even
more important, than proper training and dieting.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that adults have 7 - 9 hours of sleep daily. Individuals who regularly sleep outside this range may have symptoms or signs of serious health problems, and if done consistently, may be compromising their health and well-being.
Life happens. Sometimes we aren't able to get our 7 - 9 hours of sleep, but what happens if we miss only an hour or two? According to this article on sleep, having less than 6 hours of sleep increases the risk for ischemic strokes, type 2 diabetes, and impaired glucose tolerance. Shorter sleep durations have also been associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer. Needless to say, missing an hour or two of sleep on a daily bases will lead to negative health consequences.
A common tactic that people do to make up sleep loss during the weekdays is to sleep more on the weekend. However one study has found that sleeping in on weekends doesn't make up the sleep deficit lost on the weekdays. In fact, this strategy can potentially make you gain weight due to the regular sleep loss on the weekdays. Another article researching optimal sleep duration and potential sleep debt has shown that 1 hour
of sleep debt takes 4 days to recover to their optimal level.
Although it takes several days to recover from over an hour of sleep loss, according to the Sleep Foundation, naps can help compensate the sleep loss, but only by a little. However, it is important to not nap too long. Napping for over 30 minutes or longer gives your body enough time to enter a deep sleep. This will lead you to wake up feeling groggy. Instead, an ideal napping time would be 10 - 20 minutes.Even though napping is shown to help counter sleep loss, it should not be a regular habit to counteract sleep deprivation. The best way to counter sleep deprivation is to get enough sleep through long-term changes. Some general tips would be to avoid caffeine 8 hours before your bedtime, avoid staring at electronic screens 30 minutes before you sleep, and exercise no later than 3 hours before you go to bed.
Sleep may be more important than you think. It is fundamental for both athletes and non-athletes alike, as it vital to help us recover and grow, both physically and cognitively. For adults, it is recommended to get 7 - 9 hours of sleep daily and losing more than an hour of sleep regularly can lead up to huge health consequences.