Sleep and its importance for athletic performance and recovery.

Pssst, if we told you that you could get an edge in your chosen sport simply by catching the zzz’s, would you believe us? Seem too good to be true? Well, it’s not. Research shows that sleep is crucial for optimal athletic performance and is one of the most underrated elements to improving your health and fitness overall.

For many of us sleep can be seen as a luxury. In today’s society many of us are sleep deprived and we don’t even know it. With longer working hours and more pressure on us from external sources the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep can seem like an elusive dream. *Pun intended.

Not getting enough sleep, in conjunction with a physically active lifestyle can leave many of us open to fatigue, sub optimal performance, injury and even illness. Our bodies are not designed to be on the go 24/7. We must rest. So next time you’re feeling guilty for having that nap instead of hitting the gym, you need not worry. Just think of it as a service to your health and rest in knowledge that even the elite athletes schedule in their ‘down time’ as part of their busy training schedule.
ZMA and Hibernate by ICON Nutrition

It has been proven time and again that rested athletes perform better than those who are not. During sleep is when both your muscles and central nervous system recover from the activity of the day before. Without this, the body cannot repair itself and sub optimal performance creeps in. Not only is lack of sleep important for athletic performance but it also affects the overall health of your body longer term. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to cravings for foods higher in calories which can lead to weight gain. We cannot therefore, underestimate the importance of sleep.

There are two types of sleep we experience when our heads hit the pillow. One is just as important as the other when it comes to its effect upon the body and its functioning. These are REM and non-REM sleep.

REM sleep or light sleep is where recently learned information is processed for later recall. This includes all kinds of information, from muscle movements to visual and written information. Athletes who do not get sufficient REM sleep may notice a consequent decline in performance especially for sports where detailed information is required to remember a play such as American Football or where we are required to orchestrate a complex movement such as a gymnast or weightlifter. For top athletes, fractions of seconds or inches can be the difference between winning or losing. It is critical that their bodies are able to react quickly and perform movements as expected.

During non-REM sleep or deep sleep, the body experiences higher activity levels of cell division and regeneration than while awake. These processes are critical for muscle recovery. Without sufficient non-REM sleep, recovery time will be longer and we become fatigued.

During non-REM sleep, the body also regulates our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol levels reach higher than normal, it impacts the body’s ability to digest glucose which can impact upon our endurance. If we are unable to metabolise and synthesise glucose for later use as fuel during activity then our performance could be hindered.

Here at Icon, we have you covered with our unique hibernate formula and ZMA’s to help you get the quality of sleep you deserve. It’s then down to you to put in the time and relax safe in the knowledge that sleep is actually just as beneficial as physical activity.

If you wish to research further there is a wealth of information available online and in libraries to inform you further. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg with this article and would encourage our customers and readers to see for themselves just how important and beneficial sleep can be to our lifestyles, performance and health.

To find out more about our products that can promote quality sleep and aid recovery for optimal performance in your chosen sport click HERE.