Sleep Like an Athtele
This month in the Tennis Player’s Guide to Greatness we will be taking a look at how to, "Sleep Like an Athlete." Sleep is a huge component for helping your body recover from the stress that you take on each day. Sleep experts say 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night will help lower your risk of injury, provide you with better health, better memory and a stronger immune function. (1) In this month’s blog, "Sleep Like an Athlete," we will be dividing the article into two segments. Today in the first segment of, "Sleep Like an Athlete," we will be learning about the sleep cycles that your body goes through and the natural hormones that affect your sleep quality.
Let’s start with the basics of sleep. What does sleep actually do for us? “When we are asleep our body goes through muscle repair, memory consolidation and the release of hormones that regulate our growth and appetite.” (2) During sleep our body goes through different sleep cycles, which are categorized into REM sleep, Rapid Eye Movement, and Non-REM sleep, Non-Rapid Eye Movement. The combination of these two phases makes up a full sleep cycle, which repeats itself every 90 minutes. (3) It is important for our body to get 5 to 6 full sleep cycles in each night. During deep sleep our body’s immune system is able to rebuild and fight off any invaders and our body releases human growth hormone, which helps aid in recovery. Human Growth Hormone that is naturally released during your deep sleep is important for young athletes as it does many beneficial tasks, such as; promotes growth in your body, enhances athletic performance and promotes a healthy metabolism. (4)
Melatonin, Cortisol and Serotonin
The three main hormones involved with sleep are Melatonin, Serotonin and Cortisol. So, how do each of these three naturally secreted hormones affect our sleep. Melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland is a hormone that is released into your blood that makes you feel tired and causes you to desire sleep. (5) This hormone does not get released into your bloodstream when your body is exposed to light, natural or artificial. It is not until nighttime, or the lack of natural or artificial light, that your body will release melatonin into the bloodstream. The second main chemical involved with sleep is Serotonin. When Serotonin levels are high you will feel alert and awake. Even though alert is the opposite of sleep serotonin is an important foundation for sleep as it is needed for the pineal gland to produce Melatonin, which as we just learned is important for you to feel drowsy and begin the process of falling asleep. (6) The third chemical involved with sleep is Cortisol. Cortisol is secreted into your body due to stress that occurs in your life such as physical stress from playing tennis, or mental stress from feeling anxious about a test in school or having to give a speech in class. Stress is good in moderation as it helps us stay alert and motivated to complete whatever task we need to accomplish. However, too much stress, either sustained or chronic, can lead to elevated cortisol levels. (7) The problem with having too much Cortisol in your body is that high cortisol levels lead to lowered serotonin levels and as discussed earlier lower Serotonin levels reduces our pineal glands ability to produce Melatonin which will negatively impact your body’s ability to get high quality sleep.
In this blog, "Sleep Like an Athlete," we have given a base understanding of the different sleep cycles that our bodies go through during the night and the 3 main hormones that are an integral part of helping our body get to sleep and maintain high sleep quality. Sleep is a vital component of good recovery for your body. Remember, in order to have great on court performance you need to recover from each day’s activities. Sleep is an excellent place to start helping you recover more effectively. In the second segment of, "Sleep Like an Athlete," we will be taking a look at common daily activities that affect our sleep and give guidelines that you can use to help improve your sleep quality and recovery.