To many, sleep is a time of rest, when our bodies and minds relax and recuperate. That said, a growing body of evidence is showing that a lot is happening while we sleep, including many important hormonal changes that help our bodies function and heal.
The Power of Sleep
One study out of Stanford found that athletes who extended their sleep by one or two hours experienced big improvements in performance. Basketball players shot better, football players performed better and swimmers swam faster. Researchers believe that extra sleep empowers the body in multiple ways: by reducing stress, improving cognitive function and increasing the body’s levels of human growth hormone which is responsible for healing bone and muscle tissue.
Adequate sleep has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of injury in young athletes. A study examining about 100 California middle school athletes determined that kids who slept a minimum of eight hours each night were 68 percent less likely to suffer a sports-related injury.
The Impact of Sleep Deprivation
While research suggests that increased sleep can enhance athletic performance; other studies have found that insufficient sleep can have an opposite effect. Research conducted at the University of Chicago found that just one week of poor sleep can reduce a young man’s ability to metabolize glucose by as much as 40 percent, while also increasing cortisol level which inhibits muscle repair.
Likewise, two studies demonstrated that professional baseball and football players who experience daytime drowsiness are far more likely to get cut or retire, when compared to professional athletes who get adequate rest on a nightly basis.
Everyone Needs Sleep
Just as sleep helps promote athletic performance, it also enhances our ability to perform at work and helps reduce the risk of accidents. More importantly, insufficient sleep has been linked to all sorts of troubling medical issues, from dementia to diabetes and more.
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