To celebrate the renewal of our partnership with the British Athletes Commission (BAC), we put athletes’ questions on sleep in a Q&A to Mammoth ambassador and renowned Lecturer in Sleep Medicine at the University of Oxford, Dr Nicola Barclay.
BAC: So can you talk about the relationship between sleep and motivation
NB: Yeah, sure. So studies that have looked at total and partial sleep deprivation have consistently shown that a lack of sleep impairs cognition, alertness, decision making, as well as motivation. But it’s really rare that anyone experiences total sleep deprivation to the extent that is implemented in these lab studies. And real world differences in sleep quality and quantity are associated with smaller changes in performance and motivation, but not to the extent that you’d expect.
However there is a growing body of research looking at the effect of banking sleep that I’ve mentioned earlier, that is the sleep extension and looking at the effects of sleep extensional performance and motivation. Now, if you think about typical sleep duration, it’s actually likely that athletes need more sleep than the general population, given the role of sleep in bodily repair and cellular regeneration. So the typical recommended seven to eight hours of sleep for a typical adult should probably be increased anyway in adults. But even with an increased need for sleep, studies have shown benefits of banking even more sleep.
And one study showed that a sleep extension of, say, one hour across four nights showed benefits in reaction time – this is important for tactical sports, in decision making, physical performance and motivation levels. And what’s really interesting is that these effects on cognition, performance and motivation were even maintained four days after the sleep extension when individuals resumed to their normal sleep schedules again. So banking sleep in the nights leading up to a competition can improve many domains of motivation in performance, even if your night before the competition might be relatively poor.
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