“With a week to go to my main race, what’s the best workout I can do to make sure I’m prepared?” is a question I get asked often by athletes looking for that final edge.
Not exactly the answer most people want to hear, but to be frank, one of the most underrated performance enhancers that you will come across. And its free!
A recent study on cyclist (Extended Sleep Maintains Endurance Performance better than Normal or Restricted Sleep) showed that an extended sleep of 8 hours improved time trial performance of up to 25%!
Sleep deprivation on the other hand, seen as just under 5 hours, led to a decline in performance of up to 30%
Clearly, being sleep deprived negatively affects performance. But even if you feel like you’re getting enough sleep, it’s possible even more could still increase performance.
A study out of Stanford tested basketball players after 5-7 weeks of increasing their sleep to 10 hours per night. The results? Shooting accuracy improved by 9% across the whole study, while sprint times dropped by an average of one-tenth of a second. Not only that, but all players subjectively reported better mental and physical well-being during training and games.
Your body has two different central nervous systems settings - sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system releases energy and adrenaline, elevates heart rate, and increases arousal and focus. Your parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, signals rest and relaxation, which is critical to sleep.
During training and competition, your body is locked in to that sympathetic nervous system. It’s necessary for high performance - you need the extra blood flow and attention to react quickly. However, overtraining, poor lifestyle choices, and too little sleep can keep you in that state, limiting your ability to calm down.
Aim for those 8 hours of sleep in the week leading up to an event.
You may think you can catch those hours up by napping. Well not exactly. Napping will help, but again research shows us that performance will still be less than if you get a full 8 hours sleep
So make sure you get some shut eye leading into your event….it can cost you up to a 30% decrease in performance.