One of the three factors that form the “Golden Triangle fitness“, next to training and diet, is rest. Perhaps the most underrated of the three, especially in these years when it seems we have to do everything and do not have time for anything. “Hopefully , the days have 48 hours,” it is a common phrase and when we lack time to do everything we want, our rest is the first thing sacrificed.
You may not be aware of its importance: during sleep hours (between 7 and 8 are recommended, always depending on each person) our body goes into a process of “repair” necessary for the proper functioning of the body. In the case of athletes this rest period is even more important because it has been linked lack of sleep or a restful sleep with increased risk of sports injuries.
Lack of sleep and risk of injury
Lack of sleep in athletes usually lead to accumulated fatigue states: train when this results in the early onset of fatigue and therefore at greater risk of injury. To this collaborate other factors: poor sleep (less hours than we need or poor quality) decrease our concentration, our agility and our motivation.
A study published in the Journal of Pedriatic Orthopaedics and conducted on adolescent athletes concluded that one of the best predictors of risk of injury in these athletes (over other factors such as gender or number of weeks devoted annually training) was the amount of sleep.
The 31% of young people who claimed to sleep more than eight hours each night were injured , compared with 65% of those who spent less than eight hours to rest. Also an older age was associated as an independent factor to consider when increasing the risk of injury in adolescent athletes.
Hormonal regulation during sleep
But not only is sleep deprivation that undermine our concentration or increase our fatigue: sleep cycles also affect our hormonal regulation, which can affect sports performance. This is where, in addition to the number of hours of sleep, enters the quality of them.
Some time ago we talked about the different stages of sleep and how it is in the deeper stages of sleep (also called slow wave) when a greater amount of growth hormone is secreted , which helps to repair tissues.This phase occurs about 20 minutes after starting each sleep cycle (we have several each night: not a single cycle lasting 7 or 8 hours).
One of the effects of a break of poor quality is increased segregation of cytokines or pro-inflammatory cytokines : these are some protein hormones secreted by nerve and immune cells whose increase in our body is associated with the metabolic syndrome, to the onset of osteoporosis and other long – term cardiovascular diseases. In an athlete, in the short term, this increase in cytokines cause a similar effect of over training, so also reduces sports performance.
What can we do to improve our rest?
Fortunately, sleep the required number of hours for our body to properly recover from the effort and get this a quality rest is, largely in our hands. Some of the small but powerful gestures we can do to improve our rest are:
- Habituated to a strict sleep schedule: do not go to bed every day at a different time, but I do always, more or less , and as far as possible, at the same time.
- Ensure enough sleep: in some cases will be 7, 8 others, but always more or less around that number.
- Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed: to ensure quality rest, it is best to get rid delas (mobile, tablet, TV) screens half an hour before bedtime. Perhaps it is a good time to read a good book on paper.
- Dinner early and do not copiously: food is another and the key factors in achieving a quality rest. A dinner that does not involve a heavy digestion we always favor a good rest. Here are some examples of protein salads, perfect for dinner.