Sleep and PerformanceThe effect of sleep deprivation on physical performance can’t be neatly summed up with a few tidy sentences. Sometimes it impairs performance and sometimes it has no effect at all. It really depends on what you’re measuring and what the subjects are actually doing. For endurance work, acute sleep deprivation doesn’t impair performance as much as you’d think, whereas for activities that demand greater motor control (like basketball or volleyball) or greater power output, acute sleep deprivation may have more negative effects. Let’s look at some of the studies that have been conducted.
- One night of sleep deprivation reduced the amount of air taken into and expelled from the lungs during exercise in endurance runners and volleyball players. It also decreased the time until exhaustion, more so in the volleyball players.
- 30 hours of sleep loss hampered maximal output, but not endurance.
- Anaerobic performance was impaired by 36 hours of wakefulness, while 24 hours had no effect.
- Partial sleep loss (2.5 hours total sleep) had no effect on maximal muscle strength in women.
- Severe (120 hour) sleep deprivation reduced the aerobic oxidation capacity in skeletal muscles and accentuated their reliance on the glycolytic pathway, effectively turning otherwise healthy skeletal muscles into pre-diabetic muscles.
- 24 hours of wakefulness did not have an adverse effect on the performance of collegiate weightlifters.
- Sleep loss reduces tolerance of prolonged exercise, via psychological rather than physical avenues. End result is the same, I’d argue.
- Sleep loss reduced sprint performance by lowering muscle glycogen content.