Sleep is the essential ingredient for our quality of life, productivity and concentration. Everyone needs it, and there have been countless studies done that portray the unpleasant side effects of too little sleep, such as slow mental processes and extreme irritability. Yet, why is it that some of our bodies are seemingly wired to need very little sleep, or that others are natural early risers, and yet others need a mid-afternoon nap to keep humming through the day? The answer to these questions may lie in your DNA.
Your DNA plays a key role in your body’s sleep regulation command center, along with nutrition, exercise, your age and a slew of other factors. That’s why your body may respond to certain sleep triggers, resulting in a fitful night’s rest or a long, deep snooze. Sleep disorders used to be chalked up to a slew of diseases or disorders, ranging from diabetes to hypertension to anxiety. Now, we know DNA, too, plays a role in guiding your unique sleep patterns.
These modern breakthroughs in genome-based research have taken one group in particular by storm: athletes and exercise fanatics. This group especially counts on a good night’s rest to excel at competitions, push themselves to achieve personal records and result in high-impact workouts.
For athletes, just knowing that you need to sleep for a solid length of time is not enough to improve your performance or make your workouts that much more spectacular. If it were that easy, everyone would just sleep for 8 hours. Here’s what sleep can do for your fitness:
- Improved accuracy: A study of Stanford’s men’s basketball team showed that when team members slept for 10 hours a night, they improved their free-throw and three-point shots
- Boosted energy: Sleep recharges and resets your central nervous system, resulting in faster reaction times, better moods and high-performance workouts.
- Recover faster: That’s right, sleep is your recovery period, allowing your muscles to rest and recuperate. You’ll recover faster from a hard workout, or even injuries, with quality sleep.
For athletes and fitness gurus looking to capitalize on sleep type information, remember it’s not just about quantity. Quality is a major factor. A few lessons that coaches have learned in recent years:
- Look at your entire day. No doubt, it’s challenging to carve out a solid eight hours of sleep time. If you find that challenges, naps are an appropriate solution. Depending on your DNA insights, naps may even be optimal. 90-minute sleep times are ideal, allowing you to experience every sleep cycle.
- Cut the cord. Once you’re more in tune with what works best for your body, you can reduce or eliminate crutches like sleeping pills and alcohol. The same goes for caffeine to help you wake.
- Limit screen time. Screen time has been shown to make people more alert and increase stress levels. Powering down at least one hour before bedtime provides an opportunity to unwind.
- Close your eyes. If you struggle with the idea of napping, just close your eyes for 10 or 15 minutes, even if you don’t sleep, to reduce stress and allow your mind to rest.