Why is sleep important?
Sleep is exceptionally important for mental, physical, and emotional well-being, particularly among athletes.
- Learning and memory: During sleep, the brain is consolidating information acquired during the day. Specific brainwaves during REM are necessary to strengthen neural connections needed to form new memories.
- Metabolism/weight control: Studies have demonstrated an association between sleep deprivation and disruptions in hormones, resulting in undesirable food choices and alterations in blood sugar balance as a result of imbalance hunger and stress hormones.
- Emotional control: Sleep deprivation increases activity of reward-center in the brain, resulting in increased impulsivity and difficulty contextualizing stress stimuli.
How can sleep improve recovery?
Sleep is one of the most influential yet undermined tools for enhancing sports performance. Athletes typically experience more stress than the average person, therefore their need for good quantity and quality of sleep are exceptionally important.
- Immune system: During sleep, the immune system releases cytokines, vital proteins that are needed to fight infection, inflammation, and stress.
- Autophagy: The body’s natural recycling and cleansing of cells, a process that is needed to eliminate toxins, as well as grow and repair tissue following intense training.
How much sleep do we need?
Sleep recommendations are based on age and activity level, but exact hours needed are individualized to the person.
According to the National Sleep Foundations, young adults typically require between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, depending on the individual.
Top tips for better sleep and improved performance
- Minimize blue light exposure coming from phone and other electronic at least 30-60 minutes before bed. Blue light blocking glasses can really help.
- Reduce overall caffeine intake: Caffeine increases the neurotransmitter adenosine, which promotes wakefulness and impairs sleepiness. At the very minimum, avoid caffeine altogether after 12pm to prevent insomnia or frequent waking during nighttime
- Avoid eating 1-2 hours before bed in order for the body to focus on autophagy as opposed to digestion.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine with relaxing practices such as meditation, hot shower/bath, yoga, reading (not on screen).
Potential sleep-promoting supplements (based on individual need):
- vitamin D
- chamomile tea
- lavender essential oil (topical use)
- adaptogenic herbs (i.e. turmeric, ashwagandha, valerian root)
Kylene Bogden is the first board certified Sports Dietitian in the United States to have completed the Institute for Functional Medicine’s 5-day intensive course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP). In addition to receiving education through the Institute for Functional Medicine and the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy, Kylene has studied under some of the most well-respected Functional Medicine physicians in the country. She is also board certified in Integrative and Functional Nutrition (IFNCP) through the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy.
Kylene holds a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, a master’s degree in exercise physiology and her accredited dietetic internship was completed at Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, LA. As a former Division I Track and Field athlete and Certified LEAP Therapist, Kylene specializes in nutrition for performance while taking into account food sensitivities, gut health and nutrient deficiencies. By creating personalized fueling strategies, she has helped to improve the health and performance of a wide array of athletes from high school to Olympic, NFL, NBA and more.