Sleep Your Way To A Gold Medal

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Sleep Your Way To A Gold Medal

Gold Medal winner Adam Peaty “ I'll probably wake up late at about 11am, recover my mind, my body and stay chilled.”

With the long awaited 2016 Summer Olympics finally underway, the journey to Rio has been fraught with controversy. The Olympics have for years brought the world’s best athletes to one single stage to battle it out for various coveted titles. Being such an international event, so much is put into consideration when selecting venues, since a bad location can be detrimental to the performance of athletes. With that in mind, a fortnight can be too much to handle under harsh environmental conditions. This year’s Olympics have not escaped this controversy. Concerns about polluted water, poorly constructed infrastructure, the Zika virus and so much more. Athletes have had to find ways to optimise their performance levels and overcome these obstacles to clinch the many titles up for grabs. Therefore, how can an athlete ensure that they are at the top of their game? That they go back home as victors and not head down in defeat?

Athletes and Sleep

It is a fact that body stature and innate physical ability play a major role when it comes to great athletic performance. Most world class athletes are exposed to excellent training facilities, coaching, precise nutrition and physical conditioning. However, it is factors like sleep that can make a significant difference on the day. A recent study found that non-athletes sleep better than athletes, with athletes having an increased rate of obstructive sleep apnea; especially those with a high BMI. Another impacting factor is jet lag. Travelling from one continent and time zone to another affects sleeping patterns and can cause issues with getting adequate sleep. With all these factors showing challenges for athletes in relation to sleep, how does it affect their athletic performance?

Effects of Inadequate Sleep

According to Stuart Quan, a Sleep Medicine Professor at Harvard Medical School, inadequate sleep has effects such as:

  • Impaired focus, judgment and coordination.

  • Slower reaction time.

  • Increased risk of injury.

  • Slower physical functioning and overall performance.

It has been proven that more sleep results in better and improved performance among athletes. As shown over the years in the health guidelines, “Sleep for Optimum Health”, and this should be the same motto for athletes. In a study carried out over multiple disciplines, a 30-minute nap improved sprint times after a night of sleep deprivation. So how adverse are the effects of insufficient sleep to athletes, particularly in such stressful environments like the Olympics?

The difference between a winner and loser in competitions like the Olympics is normally in the hundredths of a second. Therefore, the benefits of sleep extension, even by an hour, can be the determining factor between winning by half a second and losing by the same. A number of teams have discovered this secret and even started adding sleep consultants to their payrolls.

Gold Medal winner Adam Peaty was reported to say “ I'll probably wake up late at about 11am, recover my mind and recover my body and stay chilled.” The 21 year old broke his own world record in a 57.55 heats race before securing the Gold medal in the final.

In the end, the effects sleep deprivation have on a driver trying to get home safely is the same effects experienced by an athlete trying to clinch the gold. For Rio 2016, sleep equals success.

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