Thursday, February 15, 2007

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Triathletes

Maybe you just started a new job. Maybe your kid is sick. Maybe you're going through a divorce or do the very "now" Hollywood thing to do and are waiting have your hands full trying to adopt a kid from a far off 3rd world country. If you're not paid to train (aka most of us), and you're not the only person in your life (aka most of us), chances are the easiest way to make the day fit together is to steal time from sleep time.


But just what, besides the time spent dreaming of Kona glory, are you loosing from cutting back on sleep?

Studies have shown that a chronic lack of sleep can lead to the following massively stinky results:

  • elevated levels of cortisol, which in turn impair your body's ability to repair its own tissues (very important for an endurance athlete!). It also makes it harder for your body to clear glucose from the blood, and, heaven forbid, makes you retain fat in your belly! That'd be a shame, after you got up all early to exercise, to have your body put all its fat stores in your hard earned washboard abs!

  • slowed glycogen storage -- you need your body to store glycogen in its muscles and liver to get you through a tough workout without bonking / becoming hypoglycemic / an incoherent bumbling mess. If you don't sleep enough, your body won't store as much as it would have in your muscles, leading you on a risky path to self destructionBonk

  • tends to lower your resting body temperature --feeling chilled? Maybe it's not the office. Perhaps you didn't sleep enough last night, huh?

And now for some very unscientific facts. Lack of sleep may cause you to:

  • be a jerk. It's true, you can't handle things as well when you're uber tired. Besides the fact that your muscles are all tired and crying for repair time, you're probably also on the verge of hypoglycemia, and having your secretary shove one more meeting agenda in your face might just make you snap! "You know what time I got up this morning! 4:30! Then I worked out for 4 hours straight! Don't talk to me!" Yes, you are cool for achieving so much before getting to the office, but your coworkers can't even comprehend how much 4 hours of exercise really is. All they care is that you're not a giant pain in the arse to them when they show up for work. So don't be.Jerk

  • be a spaz-- crying a lot lately? About stuff that wouldn't normally make you cry? Or freaking out about something you wouldn't have even given a second thought to? You are sleep deprived! (Or psychotic. If you think it's the latter, see a doctor.) It's amazing how in the evening, you might begin to hyperventilate thinking about your future love life, then after a full night's sleep, you'll wake up cool, confident, and collected. Which, by the way, are very attractive traits in a significant other. So you won't have to worry about romance any more!Spaz

  • suck at work. Hey, you can't remember anything your boss just said do you one minute ago? OK, so even if you're usually like that, at least you know what you're doing most of the time. If you're sleep deprived, you may just end up in a catatonic state and stare blankly at the wall all day and not even realize your TPS report is not even done. Whatever that is.Dilbert fired

  • be neglectful. Is your cat looking super skinny lately? Have you fed him? Probably not. Between shoving handfuls of trail mix into your mouth and downing countless gallons of soda and coffee to keep you at least LOOKING alert, important things like your cat, your friends, your rent, and stuff like that fall to the wayside. Your brain and body are just focusing on keeping you alive, not on keeping you sheltered, successful, and happy--and certainly not on doing the same for Foofie.Mad Cat

So what to do? Make sure you get at lteast 8 solid hours of sleep a night. Especially during peak training period. (10 is even better at that time!) If you're not getting it, injuries you never thought would happen might sneak up on you and make you wish you had done something about your sleepless life earlier.

sleep sheep

Live throws things at you constantly. It's ok if you can't get 8 hours every night. But if you've been putting all that effort into training--especially the 25+ hours/week for an Ironman, it'd be a real shame if it all went to waste just because you didn't get your z's!

For more information on sleep deprivation and athletes, check out these articles:

Sleep Deprivation can Hinder Sports Performance

Sleep and Performance

Sweet dreams!

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