Being sleep deprived for competition is probably the average state for most of us. Last minute travel,
jet lag, unfavorable sleeping conditions, and anxiety are amongst the
common reasons why we might have a tough time getting a good night’s
rest when competing. Often the anxiety or excitement of competition
seems to outweigh the fatigue and sleepiness of missing out the night
before, but it’s important to understand the real effects of being sleep deprived on performance.
The more we know about how exactly sleep deprivation impacts performance, the better we will be able to adjust and prepare. Even better, if we see the effects of sleep deprivation on the actual sport rather than only lab tests we may get even more of that information that we need. To that end, in a study this month in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers examined sleep deprivation on the performance of judo players, or judoka.
Like many combat sports and martial arts, judo imposes a broad variety of physical demands
on a person, including power, flexibility, endurance, and quick
reaction times. Because of the breadth of physical needs to perform well
in judo, if sleep deprivation impacted any of them, it would show
through in the performance.
The researchers used a few tests including hand grip, an isometric curling test, and a cardio test for testing power output.
They also checked on perceived exertion, or how hard the athletes felt
like they were working. The tests were done before and after a judo
match at two different times of day - 9:00 in the morning and 4:00 in
the afternoon. The researchers did the tests at two different times of
day to see if the effect on sleep varied depending on the time of
It wasn’t just the competition time that varied. When the sleep deprivation occurred actually varied as well. The
judoka each participated in one of three conditions, one in which they
received normal sleep (7.5 hours), one in which they got four hours of
sleep at the start of the night, and finally, one where they received
four hours of sleep at the end of the night. The only difference between
the last two groups was when they slept in the night rather than the
amount the slept, which is called “partial sleep deprivation,” when you
do get some sleep, but not enough.
The results were fascinating. First, without deprivation, the athletes were stronger and had greater cardio power at 4:00PM than 9:00AM. Second,
this difference went out the window with sleep deprivation, just as it
did after the judo match. That means sleep deprivation had a similar
effect as actually exhausting yourself during a performance. Not only
that, but the judoka who slept in the beginning of the night and were
awoken very early suffered further, with more weakness at the 4:00PM
session. The morning session for both sleep deprived groups was the