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Daily Wisdom: May 3

The impact of ‘sleep marathons’ on your brain and athletic performance

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In our daily news series, Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, addresses some of the latest fitness research and news stories.

Today’s Topic: Can athletes catch up on missed sleep?

The Science: Researchers at Baylor University looked at how irregular sleep patterns (too-little sleep followed by a ‘sleep marathon’) impacted the creativity and working memory of interior design students. “Unsurprisingly, the results showed reduced performance in both categories,” says Berenc.

EQX Expert Insight: “Even though this research focused specifically on students, the results apply equally to athletes who employ the same faulty sleep patterns,” says Berenc. “When sleep deprived, athletes will take longer to react, be more prone for errors, and generally not be as crisp in their execution of key skills.” What’s more, your workout will feel 10 to 20 percent harder than it would when you’re well-rested. “What you would normally rate as being a six out of 10 in difficulty, suddenly becomes an eight or a nine with no change to the actual intensity,” says Berenc. The negative impact of reduced sleep also shows up in recovery. “It is during our sleep that our body rebuilds from the day’s stresses, mentally and physically. When you take that away, you are not able to adapt to training as well,” Berenc concludes.  

The Bottom Line: "There is no honor in skipping sleep, even if you plan to sleep in the next day, particularly if you want to perform at a high level in any capacity,” per Berenc. (Read more about athletes and sleep recommendations here.)