Sleep to Perform – Repair & Regeneration

Sleep is important to elite athletes’ recovery, as it plays a key role in the repair of cellular damage. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the role of sleep in athletes. Eight hours of slumber is equally as vital to your performance as proper training and nutrition.
The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport has said that seven hours of sleep or less could increase your risk of injury while training. This is because sleep helps with protein synthesis (the digestive process of breaking down extracted amino acids, & rebuilding them into proteins), muscle recovery, the immune system, and regulation of your body’s inflammatory response (more on that soon), all of which can lead to injury.

When you exercise, minuscule damage happens within muscle tissue and impairs the proteins inside it. Chemicals called “reactive oxygen species”, surge into the affected muscles, which causes more damage to the muscle fibres. Anti-inflammatory hormones called Prolactin are released, these chemicals remove the damaged cells and tissue, and kick start the process of repair and regeneration. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to experience inflammation.
This process gradually builds up muscle mass over time.
When it comes to preventing injury when exercising, preparation can help, this can include proper stretching, increasing your distance & cross-training to build strength gradually, and finally a decent night’s sleep.

Researchers looked at many athletes, including runners, swimmers, cyclists, and triathletes. They recorded health issues including cardio and respiratory concerns, gastrointestinal problems, mental health strains, and new bouts of injury.
The biggest increase in injury was to those whose sleep was lacking in quality & quantity.
Because of research like this, awareness of the correlation between sleep, athletic advantages & injury, or lack thereof, is higher. Not only does sleep help to prevent injury, but it also helps in recovery as growth hormone is produced mostly during sleep.
Growth hormone is needed for tissue regeneration and repair. As we’ve learnt in the Stages of Sleep blog, the body winds down all the functions that aren’t needed during sleep, allowing for energy to be used more productively such as building proteins and moving the free fatty acids required for healing. Sleep also increases the tolerance for pain by up to 20%.