• Edin Sehovic

Sleep and How it can Affect Nutrition, and Fitness

If you grew up in an English-speaking country, how many times did you hear the most intense person in your social circle say the phrase, "Sleep is for the weak!"? I'd imagine if it wasn't frequently, most people have heard this statement. Well, much like American Football players in the early 1960s and their refusal to drink water because only wimps did, that mentality proved to be inefficient. It's not entirely correct, and if you've played pretty well any sport growing up, you'll know that now the tables have turned and it is encouraged for optimal performance to stay hydrated or at minimum avoid dehydration. So where did people ever get the notion that dehydration to the point of losing consciousness was effective for sports performance? Simply put, it presumably was and continues to be a display of toxic masculinity and the idea that as a man (or as an athlete in a "manly" sport) you must be tougher than other competitors. How does sleep affect sports performance/recreational gym performance? Can we get away with only a few hours of sleep and still perform at our highest level? Does one night of bad sleep have considerable effects on our performance in a physical setting? Short Answers: it has an effect, kind of, yes. Let's take a quick look further at this!

How does sleep affect Sport/Strength performance?

According to the white hall study, Changes in sleep duration causing a decrease from 6–8 h sleep were associated with poorer reasoning, vocabulary, and the MMSE (Mini-Mental State Examination). The magnitude of these effects was equivalent to a 4–7-year increase in age and suggests that individuals experiencing a lower quality of sleep can expect to experience poorer cognitive function. We can draw the conclusion that any sport/activity with a mental component around decision-making, or skill-related sport such as racquet sports, soccer, hockey, etc. would be affected by a bad night's rest. On a consistent basis, we can see more extreme effects on performance and cognition, but on a day-to-day, there might also be a temporary decrease in cognition and therefore skill, confidence, MMSE, poor reasoning, etc. Along with being a pivotal part of the recovery and muscular growth/recovery process between bouts of exercise, accumulating evidence suggests that increased sleep duration and sleep quality in athletes are associated with improved performance and competitive success. In addition, better sleep may reduce the risk of both injury and illness in athletes, not only optimizing health but also potentially enhancing performance through increased participation in training. AS for how this affects strength,

Can we get away with only a few hours of sleep and still perform at our highest level?

Like with many other answers on my channels (blog, Instagram, YouTube), it depends. We have an apriori understanding that with improved sleep comes improved performance. It is vaguely understood, but what isn't clear is to what degree? is it only from long term sleep deprivation that we see decreases in performance? Do we see this in short-term sleep deprivation? One 2011 study looked at the effect one night of sleep deprivation might have on cognitive performance. While even I believed that besides risking a decrease in my immune function that overall, I'd be fine from one night of sleep deprivation, this article made it clear that one night of sleep can have a large effect on what the rest of your day can look like in terms of cognitive performance. Another study looked at the effects one night of sleep deprivation had on endurance running on the treadmill and concluded something similar, that we do not perform nearly as well as we do when we get a good night's rest. The effect of sleep loss on performance in athletes reports a reduction in sport-specific performance including endurance cardio, sport-specific skills requiring foot-eye or hand-eye coordination, etc. It appears a reduction in sleep quality and quantity could result in an autonomic nervous system imbalance, simulating symptoms of overtraining syndrome. Additionally, increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines due to a decrease in sleep as previously mentioned could promote immune system dysfunction (WHICH IS NOT GOOD). Of further concern, numerous studies investigating the effects of sleep loss on cognitive function report slower and less accurate cognitive performance.

How Can We Promote Better Sleeping Behaviour?

Since I already have a post dedicated to getting a better night's rest I'll just throw the link-up right here:


For those of you that just want 3 quick tips to improve your sleep behavior, I'll give my 3 easiest to implement changes to improve sleep!

1️⃣ Exercise

  • this should be fairly commonplace nowadays, BUT I thought it should be placed up at the top. By exercising often, you will be able to improve not only your sleep quality but potentially your sleep latency (the time it takes to get to sleep) as well!

2️⃣ Reduce Blue light exposure in the hours leading to bedtime

  • you can download apps like "f.lux" on your computer to eliminate blue light on your screen, or putting your MAC in "Night Shift" mode if it has it.

  • you can do this by purchasing blue light blocking glasses like the ones from MVMT

3️⃣ Supplement with Melatonin

  • Since our issue with getting to sleep lies in the production of melatonin, we can implement the supplementation of oral melatonin before bedtime to help promote melatonin production before bed helping us with our sleep latency.

Use the above tools to help you maximize your sleep, nutrition, and recovery. In doing so you will find yourself experiencing much higher levels of energy, better mood management, alertness, attentiveness, and lower your risk for a long list of chronic illnesses. Visit www.edinsehovicnutrition.com for the latest evidence-based information as it relates to nutrition, sleep, sports performance and so much more! Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoyed it!

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