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Athletes Need Sleep! | Find Your Stride | Edinburgh Podiatrist

In the world of athletics, it is widely acknowledged that adequate sleep is crucial for optimal performance. The importance of sleep for athletes has been supported by numerous studies, and a recent one by Cheri D Mah in 2021 titled ‘Sleep duration correlates with performance in ultra-endurance triathlon’ sheds light on the impact of sleep on athletic performance, particularly in the context of ultra-endurance triathlons. This research contributes to the growing body of evidence highlighting the significance of sleep in athletic performance and underscores the need for athletes to prioritise their sleep for optimal results.


Woman sleeping
Duration and sleep quality are important for both general health and athletic performance

The study conducted by Cheri D Mah and her team sought to examine the relationship between sleep duration and athletic performance in ultra-endurance triathletes. To do this, the researchers recruited 17 participants who were scheduled to compete in an ultra-endurance triathlon. The participants were required to wear actigraphy watches to monitor their sleep duration and quality in the weeks leading up to the event. Additionally, performance measures such as race completion times and ratings of perceived exertion were collected. The findings of the study revealed a significant correlation between sleep duration and performance in the ultra-endurance triathlon, with longer sleep durations associated with faster race times and lower perceived exertion.


One of the key implications of this research is the recognition of sleep as an integral component of an athlete's training and preparation. Traditionally, athletes focus on aspects such as physical conditioning, nutrition, and mental preparation, often overlooking the critical role that sleep plays in their overall performance. However, the findings of Mah's study emphasise the need for athletes to prioritise their sleep as part of their training regimen. This means ensuring sufficient sleep duration and quality, as well as incorporating strategies to address any sleep-related issues that may arise.


The impact of sleep on athletic performance can be attributed to various physiological and cognitive factors. During sleep, the body undergoes processes that are essential for recovery and adaptation, such as muscle repair, tissue regeneration, and hormone regulation. Inadequate sleep can compromise these processes, leading to decreased physical performance, delayed recovery, and increased susceptibility to injuries. Moreover, sleep is crucial for cognitive function, including attention, reaction time, decision-making, and memory, all of which are critical for athletic performance. Athletes who are sleep-deprived may experience impaired cognitive function, which can detrimentally affect their ability to perform at their best during training and competition.


The implications of Mah's study extend beyond the realm of ultra-endurance triathlons and are applicable to athletes across various sports and disciplines. Whether it's a sprinter, a basketball player, or a weightlifter, the relationship between sleep and athletic performance remains a universal concern. The findings underscore the need for coaches, trainers, and sports organisations to recognise the significance of sleep and to integrate sleep management into their athletes' training programs. This could involve education on the importance of sleep, the identification and addressing of sleep-related issues, and the implementation of strategies to optimise sleep quality and duration.


In conclusion, the research by Cheri D Mah and her team emphasises the critical role of sleep in athletic performance, particularly in the context of ultra-endurance triathlons. The findings underscore the importance of adequate sleep duration and quality for athletes to achieve optimal results and highlight the need for athletes to prioritise their sleep as part of their training regimen. Furthermore, the implications of this research are relevant to athletes across various sports and underscore the necessity for coaches, trainers, and sports organisations to integrate sleep management into their athletes' training programs. By recognising and addressing the importance of sleep, athletes can maximise their potential and excel in their athletic pursuits.


Find Your Stride!

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