It is too easy to stay awake after a long day. Too many of us don’t want to miss a night out or a night watching a favorite show. While at the time your doing whatever it is that is keeping you away from the sack it won’t help your athletic performance.
As a species we’re becoming more sleep deprived. How many hours do you sleep per night? Six, seven, five? That generally is not enough if you are looking for peek sports performance.
There are e numbers of studies that suggest humans need from 7.5 to 8.1 hours of sleep per night. It is my opinion athletes are better off on the more is better end of time sleeping.
Dr. Cheri Mah, of UCSF, took a look at what happens to athletes with they get more sleep. In her study, the subjects (college basketball players) were averaging 6.5 hours of sleep per night. They increased their sleep time to an average of 8.5 hours of sleep per night. (1)
By the end of the study the basketball players had increased their free throw percentage by 11.4% and their 3-point shooting by 13.7%. (2)
Image what you could do with an 11-13% improvement in you shooting.
Swimming in the lane next to me at the YMCA was a triathlete. This was evident because of his swim cap, it read Ironman Maryland.
Ironman Maryland was once named Chesapeake Man and is held in Cambridge, Maryland. Cambridge is one of the few cities (perhaps the only city) that hosts a 140.6 mile Ironman and a 70.3 mile Ironman race. When the Ironman group purchased the Chesapeake Man event they renamed it Ironman Maryland. The price for the “Chesapeake Man” also increased. Checking the prices to do another Ironman the entry fees ranged from $675.00 to $760.00. At those prices, well archery is a lot less expensive.
The triathlete in the swim lane next to me was preparing for Ironman North Carolina. Should I decide to do another Ironman this would be a race to consider. It’s the old Beach to Battleship course and the swim portion of the event is nearly as good as the swim segment of the Ironman 70.3 in August where you swim with the current.
Despite the price, the inconveniences, and early morning swim start time not a day passes where I don’t have the urge to enter another Ironman. Hardly day passes where I don’t run, ride, swim and many days a combination of the three. Granted, I don’t train with the intensity or duration I did preparing for an Ironman but I train hard enough to be successful at shorter distances triathlons, runs, or bike races. In addition, I train and practice primarily as an archer.
Training for archery and competing is essentially a full time endeavor. The triathlon-like exercise is part of my general fitiness plan. That plan includes weight liftng which is beneficial to protect muscle mass and help prevent injuries. Rarely, does a day end that I am not ready for a good night’s sleep even though I try to get a 20 – 30 minute nap after lunch everyday. What I am saying is I do a lot of exercise. However, I’ve never considered myself one of physically gifted people built for sports.
Unlike me this guy at the Y was built for triathlon. He was tall, lean, and muscular. He looked like a triathlete. See, I’m not tall and somewhat stocky (not fat – only 9% of my weight is body fat).
As is the case, it’s nearly impossible to cross paths with another triathlete and not exchange war stories. This phenomenon is true with archers as well as all other athletes. Naturally, the swimmer next to me and I momentarily exchanged a few past glories.
What I learned is that the youngster next to me was in the 40 – 44 year old age group. I recall that period most fondly – I recall it as a time when I was in the best shape of my life (at least for long distances.) I am not alone believing that the 40 – 44 years were good, it seems that is one of the toughest age group in which to race. I think after 60 it is more a matter of attrition.
He further explained he was tired and his body was worn out from overuse. That was surprising. That is also why properly planned, scheduled and followed recovery days are critical.
To be able to compete in several sports for a lifetime requires time off from hard physical activity to allow the body to restore itself. That doesn’t mean no physical activity, active recover is okay. Still, there must be times when lounging and sleep are the best forms of training. Part of my strategy is to outlive my competition. One of the tactics is to train hard and another is to get plenty of rest. Overuse is not good.
We live very close to Virginia. So close that our daily newspaper is “The Virginia Pilot.” In today’s edition there was an article, which got me well “fired-up.”
Sleep medicine has been a huge part of my life. So, whenever I see an article in print about sleep it catches my eye. Flipping through paper, this morning, there was ‘Advice’ published by Dear Abby related to a matter of sleep.
The sad writer wrote to describe an issue related to sleep and detailed the sleeping behavior of each family member. Dear Abby responded in 83 words. Dear Abby missed potential serious sleep problems.1 Well, Dear Abby isn’t a sleep expert and all I can do is forget it, move on, and give you some free advice about sleep that will improve your shooting.
Let’s image for a moment that your form is flawless, bow tuned, arrows perfectly balanced, you’ve been shooting and winning a lot of local and regional events. You’ve even got your Jedi mind game going to ensure every shot hits the mark. However, you feel that you’re simply not living up to your potential or that occasionally the ‘Force’ isn’t with you.
Even if you think you are performing your best what I’m going to tell you will improve your shooting. Not only that, it could improve your health. It is simple and like Coach Bela Karolyi said to Kerri Strug during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, “You Can Do It!”
What is this simple activity? We all do it, but most people don’t do it enough – Get some sleep!
The majority of us sleeps 6.8 hours per night. 2 The average person, ages 26 – 64 needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep.3 Chances are you need to more sleep. Odds are you’re slightly sleep deprived – maybe even a lot. There is a wealth of information describing the negative impact of sleep deprivation on the Internet. If you are interested do a search, you’ll have enough information to get you on a path to better sleep hygiene or medical evaluation for a possible sleep disorder. But, little is available regarding the matter of getting more sleep – how does that improve performance?
Several years ago my path crossed with Dr. Cheri Mah of Stanford. We were both interested in post-operative pain management and the use of opiates. At that time, I later learned, she, Bill Dement, MD, and others had studied basketball player and sleep.4, 5 Dr. Dement and I had once prepared a research study to look at sleep deprivation and performance in cyclists during the Race Across America – we didn’t get funded. Soon afterwards, a similar study was funded. (You win some and you lose some.) So, I am always interested in what he’s doing in sleep research.
What Mah and her team’s study revealed is that college basketball players gained a 9% increase on free throws and a 9.2% increase on 3-point shots simply by getting more sleep. Those are huge increases in performance. 4 Can this analysis be carried over to archery – absolutely. Sleep is a key element of archery performance.6
You might not be able to increase your sleep time by 110 minutes, the mean increase in the study, but you can try. Most of us can’t get up later, so go to bed earlier. Really, there’s nothing worth watching on televisions and Facebook isn’t a job. By increasing your sleep you will find improvement in your performance.
By the way, never watch television in bed. When I interviewed patients with sleep problems I always asked if they went to bed and turned the TV on. It was alarming how many said they did. The bed is good for two things and sleep is one of them. Practice good sleep and see if it doesn’t help your shooting.