Sleep…Quality is Quantity

By Sparta Science

June 14, 2012

As a coach and physician, I am rather obsessed with objective data to improve athletes. How much % of your body weight can you squat? How many grams of protein did you have for breakfast? So it was quite shocking to find that my 8 hours of sleep really was not 8 hours. What I found was that my sleep quantity and sleep quality are very different. The technology I used, Zeo, was recommended by Cheri Mah, a sleep scientist at Stanford, specializing in elite athletes. Their headband reported that I woke up 12 times throughout the night, something I did not even remember, which equated to a total sleep time of just 6.5 hours, which leads to sleep debt (see Sparta Point).

At Sparta, we don’t look at sleep as just a regeneration tool, but also as a performance edge; a heightened anabolic state to accentuate and rejuvenate the body, particularly the nervous system (see Sparta Point). So our first goal is the mere recording of sleep to maximize the average nightly hours. Generally, our athletes arrive with a 6-8 hour per night average, so we need to hit that 8 hour mark before even addressing anything else, even sleep quality. The easiest route way to hit this 8 hour goal is to set the same recurring bed time and wake time.

Next comes the sleep quality, which has to involve some technology like to Zeo to be exact. However, because in depth analysis is not available to everyone, there are a few tactics to increase your sleep quality once you start hitting that 8 hours+ each night.

1. Cool Off Unfortunately, you are probably sleeping in a warmer environment than is optimal, which is 60-68 degrees. This lower body temperature allows the body to fall asleep sooner (Melatonin also lowers body temperature!). I actually have found that using a hot tub, causes a reflexive lowering of body temperature when I get out. 2. Dark Room Light is the chief determinant of circadian rhythms (see Sparta Point), which start the onset of melatonin release, a hormone that causes drowsiness to help you enter sleep, a key component of quality. 3. Less Alcohol Alcohol, even a couple drinks, decreases sleep duration by 19 min and efficiency by 4%, particularly at the 2nd half of the sleep cycle which targets nervous system improvements, like learning from the day’s events (see Sparta Point) So realize that your sleep quality IS your quantity, 8 hours a night could mean 6. Your best bet is shoot for 9-10 hours in a dark, cool room, unless being alert doesn’t matter in your sport. Arnedt, J. T. , Rohsenow, D. J., Almeida, A. B., Hunt, S. K., Gokhale, M., Gottlieb, D. J. and Howland, J. (2011), Sleep Following Alcohol Intoxication in Healthy, Young Adults: Effects of Sex and Family History of Alcoholism. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 35: 870–878.

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