Sleep and Performance

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We all know how good it feels to have a good night’s sleep. Solid deep sleep not only sets us up for peak physical performance, but also improved mental performance. Having a positive attitude definitely affects our physical performance, but in order to perform maximally the body needs to be fully recovered.  Without enough deep sleep many physiological and hormonal shifts can occur. Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in growth hormones, testosterone, elevation of cortisol, and insulin resistance can develop.  Lack of sleep then in turn affects daytime hunger. Have you ever been really tired and craved carbohydrates? What you really need is a twenty minute nap to reset brain metabolism and hormones.  Weight loss efforts are often derailed when there is a pattern of chronic sleep deprivation.  Lack of deep sleep and stress along with insulin resistance creates a tendency for the body to store fat and it becomes quite difficult to build muscle.

Sleep is just as important to performance as other aspects of training!

Sleep is just as important to performance as other aspects of training!

Former Navy Seal, Kirk Parsley, MD, has done some very interesting studies with the Navy Seals and sleep deprivation. When he studied a group of hard charging Navy Seals that were sleep deprived he saw that they had less power, less endurance,  increased markers of inflammation, were not able to gain muscle, testosterone was lower, and they were making poor choices. In other words they were STRESSED OUT!


Take a look at your own world and the demand of work, family, training and the environment of constant screen time. Over time this affects your natural circadian rhythms and the balance of cortisol. Cortisol is part of the adrenal “fight-or-flight” response. Dr. Parsley puts it nicely “During fight-or-flight, you have an excessive need to be alert and active. You therefore have excessive adrenal functions, including excessive cortisol.” This is not a winning combination for quality sleep, loosing fat, and controlling insulin.


Ten tips to improve sleep.

  1. No electronics in bed. No smart phones and electronic devices.
  2. Blacken your room to outside light.
  3. Make a bed time and stick to it.
  4. Get up at the same time every day and stick to it even on weekends.
  5. Learn how to manage stress. Turn brain off for 20 minutes a day.
  6. Nutrition – learn how to improve blood glucose to avoid insulin resistance.
  7. Exercise daily. If highly stressed keep intensity low.
  8. Decrease blue light 3 hours before bed. No LED lights, get rid of alarm clock light.
  9. Vitamin D – know your levels. Recommend 50-80 ng/ml.
  10. If snoring is an issue, get a sleep study.


For more information and guidance


Sheila Leard, RD, CSSD,

Board Certified Sports Dietitian


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