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Sleep to Win! 7 Ways to Gain the Competitive Edge
By Dr, James B. Maas and Haley A. Davis

Whether you’re a pro-athlete or haven’t run, or hit or touched a ball since your high school days, you have no idea how your abilities can dramatically improve overnight. And the best part is it’ll be the easiest and most enjoyable change to your workout routine. All you need to do is get more sleep!

Most people don’t realize how significant a role sleep plays in daytime performance. Research regarding sleep and athletics is gaining more attention than ever and many new findings are coming to light. Here are seven ways to get the right quality and quantity of sleep to maintain your competitive advantage.

1. Stay focused. Research at Cornell has found that when athletes get adequate sleep every night they show improved conditioning, an increase in focus and concentration, a decrease in injuries, faster reaction time, a decrease in fatigue and an increase in energy. All of this results in significantly improved athletic performance and victories.

2. Maintain corticol levels. Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago has done extensive research in the area of sleep deprivation. She has found that even slight deprivation increases the levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is associated with reduced memory ability, insulin resistance and impaired recovery. Cortisol is essential for adequate recovery after any physically strenuous exercise.

3. Home growth hormone levels. A study by Richard Budgett of the British Olympic Association showed that more than 90% of overtraining cases in athletes were a result of insufficient recovery. Human growth hormone plays a key role in tissue repair.

So, while you may consider it beneficial to cut out a few hours of sleep in the morning to fit in your workout, be mindful that missing this rest will likely set you back much more than you’d expect.

4. Superior Calcium Flow. Studies find that athletes who sleep the fully recommended amount show significantly more improvement afterward. Between the seventh and eight hours of sleep something happens that researchers recently discovered as the key to athletic success. A cascade of calcium rushes into the motor cortex in your brain, this same effect does not happen if calcium is taken in pill form. This calcium consolidates your muscle memory, so any of the techniques you may have practiced during the day are transferred into your permanent memory. The next time you attempt a sequence of athletic moves (like those necessary to make a 3-pointer in basketball or to hit a golf ball squarely), every successive necessary move in the sequence will be fast and automatic.

Think about this the next time you’re out on the golf course: if you have to think about all 186 things you’ve got to do to hit the ball squarely, you’ll never make good contact.

5. What you eat affects your sleep. Intake of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine should be limited throughout the day. Caffeine after 2 PM, for example, has the potential to keep you awake well into the night. Especially avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime because it can play havoc with your night’s sleep.

6. Electronic interference. An estimated 95% of people use electronics within an hour of bedtime, but may not realize the harm they’re causing their sleep at night. The blue daylight spectrum light that these devices emit blocks the release of melatonin in the brain, this is the hormone that helps you fall asleep when you turn off the lights at night. Clearly, working on your iPad in bed is not the best nighttime ritual. In fact, the bedroom should really be used only for sleep; keep any work related materials aside so the stress that they cause can’t interrupt your relaxation.

7. Environmentally Friendly. Finally, keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool to ensure that you’re getting the best quality sleep.

With these helpful tips, you’ll be sleeping to win in no time!

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