Sprinters | sleep

Sprinters and Sleep: If you're a sprinter, you needn't worry about losing a night's sleep.

Getting a decent night's sleep before competing can be a problem - pre-event nerves, or problems with sleeping in a strange place can cause insomnia. Not surprisingly, research has found that disturbed sleep impairs endurance performance. But there hasn't been much information on the effect of a disturbed night on short duration, high intensity exercise - such as sprinting.

Therefore, a team of French research scientists decided to investigate the effect of a shorter night's sleep on athletes' performances in a 30 second cycle sprint test. Eight highly trained athletes were recruited - they reported that they usually slept for eight hours give or take half an hour, and all had a usual bed-time of between 10 and 11pm. The subjects were taken to a sleep lab (which included 'comfortable, sound-proofed bedrooms') and kept awake until 3 am: 'sitting, reading books, or watching television: under the constant observation of a technician' - the technician presumably poking them to wake them up if they dozed off!
The next day, subjects were woken at 7 am, and at some time during the morning, required to carry out a test on a cycle ergometer. They were asked to cycle as fast as possible and to maintain maximal cycling speed for 30 seconds. Various physiological measurements were made during and after the cycle test, to assess values such as peak velocity, peak power output, blood lactate accumulation, and respiratory efficiency. The measurements were compared with measure-ments made the previous day, when the athletes had had the benefit of a normal prior night's sleep (also taking place in the sleep lab)

The good news was that the participants performed just as well on all counts after being kept awake, when compared to having had a full night's sleep. Peak velocity, peak power output and mean power output were all the same for the two tests. Measures of respiratory function and accumulation of blood lactate were also unaffected. The researchers concluded that for short, intense exercise bouts, 4 hours' sleep provided all the core sleep required. So, if you're having a fit of insomnia the night before a race, you don't need to suffer the added agony of thinking you absolutely have to get a full night's sleep to perform well

('Effects of a selective sleep deprivation on subsequent anaerobic performance', Mougin et al, Int J Sports Med vol17 (1996), pp115-119)

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Tagged in Sprinting & Physiology
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