Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is Sleep More Important than Nutrition?


The Mechanisms behind Sleep’s Benefits

1. Increased plasticity

Plasticity can be defined by how entire brain structures, and the brain itself, can change from experience, and in this case, lead to improved skills. These last 2 hours of sleep are significant because they represent a much greater electrical activity of spindles that trigger a key mechanism for plasticity.

2.  Growth Hormone (HGH)

The peak time for HGH secretion in humans is about an hour after you fall asleep and greatest during slow wave sleep (deep sleep). Therefore, the longer you sleep, the more, you maximize HGH.

3.  Cortisol

Any disruption of your normal circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), significantly increases cortisol secretion. Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone," it increases your blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces your immune responses.


While this data is valid, it is useless without action. So you need to begin the process improving your sleep,
basically developing a prebed routine just like you have a pregame routine, outlined in greater detail previously (see Sparta Point).

1. Log your sleep every day
=  9.5 hours average need for athlete

2. Consistent sleep and wake hours 
=  maximize your personal internal "clock"

3. Improve environment 
=  a cool, dark, and quiet "cave"

Travel schedule is one of the major obstacles to establishing a good routine. Cheri Mah, Stanford sleep lab expert, finds it takes 1 day/time zone to adjust your body clock, so provides our athletes some general tips for traveling

  • stay on PST if you do not have adequate time to adjust to EST, i.e. 1-2 day trip
  • flights in the late morning rather than post night game
  • eliminate naps on flights heading east

Sure nutrition is important, but often over emphasized because sleep requires the hardest commitment of all; your time. How much time are you willing to sacrifice for more sleep?

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