By Dr. David Geier
You get up before the sun rises to take a shower and get the kids fed and ready for school. Then you rush to work, where you face an endless barrage of deadlines, meetings and emails. Then you drag yourself through a workout just to get it in before heading home to the family and a late night before you go through it all again.
It’s no wonder we struggle to get enough sleep. We only need to look at pro athletes, like Tom Brady, LeBron James and Steph Curry, to see that we need to make sleep a priority. They each sleep eight to nine hours a night. The results speak for themselves.
Even if we aren’t playing in the NFL or NBA, we need to get more sleep. Not only will we feel better, but our physical performance will improve.
Sleep has big benefits in terms of alertness, decision-making and reaction times. It plays a role in cardiovascular performance, endurance and even injury prevention. Since the body produces human growth hormone while we sleep, getting enough rest can help our muscles grow and recover faster.
Better sleep could even enhance our on-field or on-court performance. A study of Stanford’s men’s basketball team found that when the players got 10 hours of sleep each night, their free-throw and three-point shooting accuracy improved. They ran faster during practices and games, too.
On the other hand, a lack of sleep can hurt our performance. One study of Major League Baseball players found that batters’ plate discipline — not swinging at pitches outside the strike zone — became much worse over the course of the season. A second study found that MLB players who reported feeling sleepy tended to have shorter careers than did rested players.
The benefits of sleep are not constrained to athletes. All of us should try to sleep more each night. Adjusting our schedules to optimize recovery can help us at work or school and not just the gym.
In addition to making an effort to get in bed earlier, try to cut back on your use of sleeping pills. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol consumption. Stop using phones and other technology at night, and avoid eating inflammatory foods.
Take your physical and mental recovery seriously. Get more sleep.
Dr. Geier is an orthopaedic surgeon at Sports Medicine Specialists of Charleston and the medical director of East Cooper Sports Medicine.