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Queensland runner Craig Burns blogs for Queensland Academy of Sport on his belief in the power of sleep

11 May 2016

Open your eyes to sleep

(Written by Craig Burns May 2016, views are his own)

There are so many reasons to be awake...or to stay up late. Game of Thrones, Cougar Town, How to Get Away with Murder, Suits, MKR...just to name a few of my own. Then there are things like Facebook and Instagram and all the other social medias. Don't forget about dinner parties, regular parties, or perhaps just staying up late to get everything you have to get done done...uni work, work work, and just general life admin. Or even just getting up really early to fit everything into your day.

Startlingly, recent research on the effects of less sleep highlight the impact that the lack of sleep can have, especially for athletes. With the exception of specific studies on sleep, it's hard to make a steadfast conclusion about how important sleep is because its effects are hard to measure. Over the years I have always been encouraged by coaches and support therapists to makes sure I am getting enough sleep. Anytime that I have been unwell or sick or particularly sore, the question of how much sleep I have been getting is always asked. I personally attribute my lack of sleep as the main cause of injury.

On two occasions I personally attribute my lack of sleep as the main cause of injury. Years and years ago I tore (grade 2 tear) my hamstring during a 200m race. It was the first time I had done something pretty major in terms of an injury and it was smack bang in the middle of my final semester at uni. I remember putting in some late nights to get the uni work done and it never crossed my mind that having less sleep would lead to a hammy tare. The second occasion was the week before I left Australia to go to the Commonwealth Games. I was working full time (40 hours a week), training full time (gym sessions, track sessions, recovery sessions) and had other meetings and commitments to go to as well. One of the nights I made a Facebook post about how big the day was and how grateful I was to be going to bed, even though it would have been late. The next day, while I was in the gym, doing my last training session before catching my flight out of Brisbane, I was doing an ordinary clean lift in the gym, just a normal weight for me, nothing too heavy and BAM my back spasms and locks up. Luckily it was just a spasm which meant that I was just in excruciating pain for the next 4 or 5 days, but it easily could have been a costly injury instead.

Many great athletes embrace sleep. Serena Williams once admitted she enjoys early nights and goes to bed around 7pm. Usain Bolt says "Sleep is extremely important to me I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body". Roger Federer enjoys 11 to 12 hours of sleep per night. Lebron James also endorses 12 hours of sleep per night.

Some of the most obvious effects of sleep deprivation include an altered mood with increased feelings of tension, stress, depression confusion, fatigue and anger. Other effects of restricted sleep show impaired cognitive performance, disturbed glucose metabolism, altered appetite regulation and slower immune function. Additional studies show that submaximal and aerobic performances decrease with less sleep, and performances in general increase with more sleep.

Sleep is often forgotten about as something that can boost your performance. I remember reading a quote somewhere that basically says the person in 3rd place did the work, the person in 2nd place did the work and ate right, and the person in 1st place did the work, ate right and had enough sleep. I encourage you to do your own research on sleep and really open your eyes as to how important sleep is, especially for athletes.


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Last updated
11 May 2016