While it may seem clear that a rested athlete would be a more efficient athlete, putting that knowledge into practice is often a challenge, for both professionals, whose travel schedules curtail consistent sleep patterns, and non-elites, whose daily regimens, family and work lives may interfere with proper rest.
Studies linking sleep and performance abound, and while the amount and quality of rest needed varies by individual, it’s clear that there are ways to improve both. One is via a sleep tracker that can aid training.
“Many people tend to over- or underestimate how much nightly sleep they get,” said Dr. Mairav Cohen-Zion of Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo. “A sleep tracker can increase awareness of sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep schedule to create a hygienic sleep routine. Sleep trackers help athletes not only get sufficient sleep, but also reduce sleep schedule variability, which has been linked to reduced sleep and poorer daytime functioning and performance.”
Dr. Cohen-Zion is part of the team that has worked with corporate sleep provider dayzz on its integration with popular Garmin wearables, designed to help athletes of all levels develop sleep training plans.
“Nightly sleep requirements also vary based on the amount of sleep received in the past week and how much we have physically and mentally taxed ourselves (thus determining how much recuperation is needed),” added Dr. Cohen-Zion. “By resting the adequate amount, our bodies can heal and our brains are able to cleanse themselves of toxins, learn new information and consolidate memories.”
The goal with dayzz, according to Dr. Cohen-Zion, is to make the technology to improve quantity and quality of sleep accessible to anyone. Already integrated with Garmin, the dayzz app has no additional cost.
“While elite athletes have paid staff to help them maintain healthy routines in all aspects of their lives,” she noted, “casual and elite runners can use dayzz to help maintain accountability for their sleep health. In addition, casual runners can use the app to learn how to take advantage of their exercise to best benefit their sleep – for example, timing of exercise could improve sleep quality and ability.”
Though pro team sports athletes have those paid staff to assist with health and nutrition, some elements, like jet lag from cross-country (and, in the case of the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners, who played in Japan to open the 2019 baseball season and the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox who played in London last month, cross-ocean) travel, are unavoidable.
“Synchronizing sleep to normal daylight hours would help address jet lag,” explained Dr. Cohen-Zion. “Athletic performance has been shown to be affected by jet lag, showing that circadian misalignment can impact success.The failure of the circadian clock to synch to natural dark-light cycles is shown to be what affects performance most rather than the wear and tear of the travel.”
Cover Image: Unsplash/Gregory Pappas