Triathletes Need Sleep

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By Billy Haug, MD, CAQSM
Member AMSSM

Just as proper training is an important part of staying fit and race ready, proper rest is a necessary and important aspect of your well-being.    Our influenza season is upon us and it will be important to guard against any drop in your immune system’s ability to fight infections.  Sleep is one of your answers to keep the doctor away!

At any age, sleep helps strengthen the immune system, helps the nervous system work properly, and keeps the mind sharp.   Too little sleep can leave you drowsy, unable to concentrate, and impairs both memory and physical performance.  Sufficient sleep will aid in your body’s ability to properly recover from workouts.

The recommended amount of sleep
How much is “enough” sleep?  Everyone is unique, but experts recommend that adults obtain between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to maintain good health and optimum performance.  Although some people feel rested on less than six hours of sleep per night, researchers have found that people who sleep this little don't perform as well on complex mental tasks as do people who obtain closer to seven hours of sleep a night. Additionally, researchers have found that adults who sleep much more or less than seven hours of sleep a night have a higher mortality rate than do adults who sleep about seven hours a night. Remember, too, that quality of sleep is just as important as quantity. If your sleep is frequently interrupted, you will not achieve quality sleep.

Sleep and athletic performance
Athletes who obtain sufficient sleep are more likely to improve their performance, according to research. One study included healthy men’s basketball players who maintained their typical sleep-wake patterns for a two-week baseline followed by an extended sleep period in which they obtained extra sleep. To assess improvements in athletic performance, the athletes were judged based on their sprint time and shooting percentages. The study showed significant improvements in athletic performance, including faster sprint time and increased free-throw percentage, in those who obtained extra sleep. Athletes also reported increased energy and improved mood during practices and games, as well as a decreased level of fatigue.

Do naps count?
Many of us wonder about naps.  While a “power nap” may seem like a great idea at times, naps do have a downside. Upon awakening, people often manifest performance deficits and are foggy and clumsy. This effect intensifies with progressive sleep loss, especially at night. Very short naps (of about ten minutes) may offer some recuperative benefit when people are sleep deprived without producing noticeable levels of performance deficits.

Sleep affects physical health, emotional well-being, mental sharpness, productivity and athletic performance. Studies associate lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If you experience frequent daytime sleepiness or decreased athletic performance even after increasing the amount of quality sleep, talk to your health care provider. Underlying health conditions may be uncovered and treatment may help you recuperate well and keep you in the action!

Billy Haug, MD, CAQSM
Grand Forks, ND

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date: November 11, 2009

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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