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The Relationship between Sleep and High Performance

There’s a strong connection between sleep and high performance. How does your sleep affect your performance? Find out in this article.

Have you ever tried to make it through your day on no sleep? You probably couldn’t function normally. Your energy levels and memory levels were likely shot and even seemingly easy tasks like your speech and ability to communicate may have been delayed or compromised.

Lack of sleep plays a large role in hindering your peak performance levels. A proper night’s sleep is required for athletic performances, cognitive functioning, your ability to work, and much more. Here is why you need sleep to perform at your best and how to know if you’re sleep-deprived.

Why Is Sleep Important?

Sleep is so important for life and health that some research even refers to it as “medicine.†According to research conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, sleep medicine was linked to the discovery of electrical activity in the brain.

The discovery of electroencephalogram (EEG) patterns in the brain that occur during sleep led scientists to classify the different stages of sleep. This prompted researchers to determine the importance of sleep and how it affects health.

Since then, researchers have determined that sleep is crucial for our well being and even survival. Most important, sleep affects our cognition, attention, and mood.

Sleep and Cognition

Lack of sleep has a disastrous effect on our waking cognitive functions, including working memory, cognitive speed and accuracy, and performance. Studies show that inadequate sleep even causes us to remember negative memories.

It also affects our emotional and psychological interpretation of events in our lives, how well we handle stress, and the quality of our well-being.

From a cognitive perspective, sleep is important because it is responsible for recharging and “cleaning†your body. Specifically, your body cleans toxins out of your brain cells during sleep to help improve cognitive function while you are awake.

According to one study, both total and partial sleep deprivation cause changes in cognitive performance. First, it impairs working memory and attention, but it also affects decision-making and long-term memory.

The study indicated that partial sleep deprivation negatively impacts attention span and vigilance.

However, sleep isn’t just an emotional or mental problem. It can also affect us physically.

A blurry image of a red object in the dark.

Physical Impact of Sleep Loss

Studies show that sleep has significant impacts on physical development and health. It’s necessary for the recovery aspect of exercise, and may also keep our heart healthy.

Research shows that increased sleep quality leads to improved performance and competitive success in athletes. Additionally, better sleep may reduce the risk of injury and illness in athletes.

Additionally, sleep loss activates the sympathetic nervous system and causes your blood pressure to rise. It also increases cortisol secretion and may affect your immune system response. Metabolic changes, such as insulin resistance, have been linked to sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation increases the risk of the following diseases and conditions:

â— Accidents and injuries

â— Insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing, and circadian rhythm disorders

â— Narcolepsy

â— Obesity in both adults and children

â— Depression and anxiety

â— Cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure

â— Diabetes and impaired blood sugar levels

â— Alcohol use

◠Neurological conditions, including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease

â— Stroke

Research also shows that sleep loss is linked to increased age-related deaths, primarily from acute heart attacks.

How Much Sleep Do You Need For High Performance?

As you can see, proper sleep is important for so many aspects of health. You simply cannot perform at your best if you don’t rest at night.

According to one study, getting six hours of sleep or less per night may increase your risk of chronic disorders, including cancer and stroke.

While there is no magic number for everyone, most research shows that seven to eight hours per night is enough to help you achieve maximum performance during the day.

How to Tell the Affects of Sleep and High Performance

If you are unsure if you are sleeping enough at night, then consider your performance levels during the day. Do you feel well-rested, attentive, and alert during all of your activities?

How about during exercise? Do you feel capable of exercising at full-capacity when you want to or do you feel like you’re lagging?

Here are some signs of sleep deprivation that could indicate your performance levels are suffering:

â— Problems concentrating or making decisions

â— Inability to recall memories, both long-term and short-term

â— Fatigue or being extremely tired; unable to keep your eyes open, especially in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon

â— Headaches and migraines

â— Being unalert; not responding to your surroundings in a normal manner

â— Overreacting to events that are not particularly stressful

â— Feeling depressed or anxious

â— Unable to make it through an exercise session or feeling overexerted during normal activities

â— High blood pressure

â— Mood swings

â— Muscle aches and pains or stiffness

â— Frequent sickness or infections

â— Inability to heal from wounds

If a lack of sleep impacts your daily routine in any way, including making it hard to stay awake or focus while doing simple tasks, such as driving or holding a thought, then it might be time to consider making changes in your routine to make sleep a priority.

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