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Sleep is an essential component in our lives to aid us in energy regulation. Ensuring adequate rest also helps in thermoregulation, cognitive functioning and muscle repair. Our body goes through a breakdown of muscle fibers during exercise and are rebuilt during rest/sleep. When improper rest is occurring, the body essentially isn’t given the amount of time needed to repair and rebuild, leaving the body in a catabolic state the next day. Another important factor to consider with sleep loss in athletes is glucose stabilization as glucose production typically decreases during rest.
For example, a study was conducted on seven national level competitive swimmers for 14 consecutive days with high intensity training and rest days. This particular study analyzed not only their sleep quality, but also the time of day they trained and how it affected their ability to rest. The athletes being studied self-reported that their lack of sleep greatly affected their performance during training and decreased motivation. It was also reported that the swimmer’s took naps during training days when they could but rarely during non-training days. Overall, the study concluded that due to the athletes’ training schedule at 6:00am on training days, their sleep averaged to less than six hours the night prior to training, regardless of attempting to fall asleep earlier in the evening. A way to prevent sleep loss can be as simple as changing the training time to a few hours later to ensure athletes are receiving enough rest.