Sleep Keeps You Moving. Movement Supports Sleep.

By Rebecca Shrum

Empowering Health & Wellness

Whether they play basketball or tennis, swim competitively, or excel at soccer, college athletes seem to be living, breathing examples of why sleep is our superpower – a bona fide, legal performance- enhancing substance. The truth is that all of us need a full eight hours of sleep a night; six hours just won’t cut it to support long-term health and performance. For athletes especially, getting too little sleep has dramatic consequences:

    • Time to physical exhaustion drops by 10 to 30 percent
    • Aerobic output is significantly reduced
    • Limb extension force and vertical jump height are diminished
    • Peak and sustained muscle strength go down.

Need proof that less is not more when it comes to sleep? Repeatable studies prove that MORE is more. A study of men’s basketball players at Stanford who extended their sleep to 10 hours a night ran faster in both half-court and full-court sprints and their ability to make free throws and three-point shots improved by at least 9 percent.

The same sleep extension gave male and female swimmers faster reaction times off diving blocks, improved turn times and increased kick strokes. Varsity tennis players, male and female, who increased their sleep to at least nine hours a week improved the accuracy of their serves from about 36 percent to nearly 42 percent. The players also experienced less sleepiness, enjoyed better moods, and suffered fewer injuries.

Physiological Effects of Too Little Sleep

Whether you were a college athlete or not, if you took Physiology 101, you probably learned some of the reasons your body’s systems need their ZZZZs.

    • Post-performance sleep accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen
    • Every major system, tissue, and organ of your body suffers if you don’t get enough sleep
    • One night of modest sleep reduction – even just one or two hours – will speed the contracting rate of a person’s heart, hour-after-hour, and significantly increase systolic blood pressure
    • Sleep deprivation shuts off growth hormone – a great healer of the body that normally surges at night
    • Deep sleep prevents an escalation of physiological stress associated with increased blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

Year after year, sleep is important to allow your heart to rest and cells and tissues to repair. And, as you progress through the stages of sleep, the changes in your heart rate and breathing throughout the night promote cardiovascular health.

Sleeping Less Means Eating More

When you look in a full-length mirror, you don’t see how too little sleep raises your blood pressure readings. But you do see another compelling reason to get enough sleep. The less you sleep the more you are likely to eat.

    • Sleeping less than seven or eight hours a night will increase your probability of gaining weight, being overweight, or being obsess, and add to your chances of developing type 2 diabetes
    • Inadequate sleep is the perfect recipe for obesity: greater calorie intake, lower calorie expenditure and binge eating. But a full night of sleep repairs compromised communication pathways deep in your brain that unleash desire for random eating. At the same time, sleep supports the higher-order areas of brain regions that rein in such cravings. In other words, sleep can restore impulse control within your brain, putting the brakes on potentially excessive eating
    • When you don’t get enough sleep, your body becomes especially reluctant to give up fat. Muscle mass goes down, while fat goes up.
Sleep Helps Stop Brain Drain

The relationship between food, physical activity, and learning is hardwired into the brain’s circuitry. The bad news is that inactivity is killing our brains – physically shriveling them. But the good news is that exercise unleashes a cascade of neurochemicals and growth factors, physically bolstering the brain’s infrastructure. Exercise benefits your brain by:

    • Causing neurons that are connected through “leaves” on treelike branches to grow and bloom, enhancing brain function at a fundamental level
    • Producing proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they support the mechanisms of our highest-level thought processes
    • Improving learning on three levels. First, it optimizes your mindset to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.

All in all, sleep and movement impact how well you think, how good you look, and how healthy and happy you feel. Need more reasons to get eight hours of sleep and keep moving? Try doing a sleep study on yourself and see how else you might benefit!

Scroll to Top