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  • Sharanya Kannan

Role of sleep in an athlete’s performance and recovery

Do you fall asleep as soon as you hit the bed? Chances are, you are probably sleep-deprived. Ideally, it should take an individual 10-15 minutes.

Sleep is essential for overall health for both athletes and non-athletes. Stress, physical and mental illness, shift work, sleeping arrangements and patterns, diet and exercise habits all contribute to an irregular sleep schedule. Generally speaking, sleep deprivation reduces a person’s ability to react quickly and think clearly.

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Sleep disturbances, in athletes, may occur ahead of competitions or even during normal training. During confinement, in the absence of competitions, an athlete is bound to stray from normal routine and work out at odd hours. While regular exercise improves sleep patterns, a high-intensity workout right before bedtime keeps one awake.

Battling challenges of confinement, athletes fight to maintain mental health and ensure that physical wellbeing is not compromised. The stress of it during this pandemic may give some of them sleepless nights. But a sleep-wake cycle and the importance of it in an athlete’s life cannot be understated.

The athletic performance also begins to take a dip as sleep deprivation indirectly influences athletes’ physical, physiological and psychosomatic processes. Increased anxiety, depressed mood, anger, frustration and irritability may all be attributed to partial or total sleep deprivation. They also impair cognitive and physical performance among athletes. Lack of sleep reduces motivation, which is a key driver in maintaining muscle strength, lung power and in performing endurance sports.

In addition, there may also be extended damage by way of changes in glucose metabolism, neuroendocrine functions thereby resulting in carbohydrate metabolism, appetite and protein synthesis. A multitude of biochemical changes within the affected muscle areas such as increased inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species may aggravate muscle injuries among trained athletes. This increases the risk of a cardiac injury arising from acute exercise following one night of partial sleep deprivation.

Athletes, therefore, must indulge in a healthy sleep routine. An average of 7-8.5 hours of sleep is considered normal. More importantly, athletes must exercise discipline in going to bed at a routine time in a cool, dark and quiet room. It helps in cultivating a disciplined waking time and subsequently, to follow a healthy pattern of diet and exercise. Keep those gadgets away in the hours before bedtime. Avoid large meals, caffeine/stimulating drinks and dining 3-4 hours before bedtime. These help tremendously with a rested night.

During this confinement period, amongst many other concerns, the ability to stick to such a schedule helps an athlete’s performance remain as unhindered as possible. Sufficient hours of sleep, in quantity and quality, is also often seen as recuperation to help heal injuries. Sleep helps the body recover from physical exertion. Cytokines help the immune system fight off infections and the body produces cytokines while it gets its rest. Overall, these are associated with better physical performances and general wellbeing. And who can say no to that!

Over the period of next week, we at ATIUM will help you with the dos and don’ts during the COVID-19 second lockdown. So that you do not lose shape, focus and your athletic ability to perform when things are back to normal.

You can read our other articles on how to cope with COVID-19 second lockdown here

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You can also get in touch with us directly for any guidance and support regarding the COVID-19 Wellness tracker on our ATIUM app @

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