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Guest Blog! Sleep: One of the Best Performance Enhancers for Athletes

In dealing with the public every day, I have learned how unfortunately hard it is to find a good doctor. So, I sincerely respect one when I see one. Dr. Alex Tauberg is one of those docs. He and I met during the PSP program, and together we became two of the first in Pittsburgh to achieve this certification. I realized immediately that we are like-minded, laser focused on improving patient outcomes, and above all else -- he’s someone I would trust with my own patients. I’m constantly working to build a network of competent, evidence-based, and trustworthy medical providers so that I can refer my friends, family, and even my own patients to the right location that makes it convenient for them to get the care that they need. I am proud to have Dr. Tauberg in my network to bounce ideas off of, discuss difficult cases, and to ensure that we’re always becoming better doctors together.

Dr. Tauberg has recently authored a piece on the importance of sleep, and I felt compelled to share it with all of my blog readers. Read on to learn more about why Sleep is one of the best performance enhancers.

Sleep: One of the Best Performance Enhancers for Athletes

We all know that physical conditioning and conscious eating are vital to athletic performance. Often overlooked, though, is that the quality and amount of sleep one gets also plays a significant role. When sleep deprived, the body doesn’t have time to repair itself. It can’t release performance-related hormones that it otherwise would when one gets enough sleep. In addition, sleep deprivation raises levels of stress hormones, results in fatigue, low energy, and poor focus. For athletes, sleep can be a key differentiator that ultimately allows you to outperform your competition. There are several specific areas where a well-slept athlete will outperform a competitor who is struggling to get enough sleep.

1) Continuous Performance Improvement

Lack of adequate sleep has been shown to significantly decrease the production of glycogen and carbohydrates that the body stores for energy use during physical activity, which partially determines how quickly an athlete’s body rebuilds muscles, replenishes nutrients, maintains endurance, speed, and overall performance.

2) Muscle Repair

Post-exercise recovery among athletes is vital, as it helps the body and brain function properly. During sleep, the body recovers from the stresses that have been placed upon it during the day. When training, athletes break down their muscles at a micro-level. During sleep, the muscles repair themselves. Proper sleep gives the body the adequate amount of time needed to perform these processes.

3) Decision Making

In addition to the effects that sleep plays on one’s physical abilities, sleep can affect memory and decision-making, which every athlete knows plays a huge part in sports and competition. The refreshing affects of sleep allow athletes to mentally prepare themselves for the rigors of sport.

4) Learning from Practice

They say that “Practice Makes Perfect”… but not without sleep. While sleeping, our brains also undergo a process that helps to reinforce learned skills. This is vital during an athlete’s training. Getting the proper amount of sleep can actually make it easier to learn a new skill. On the contrary, being sleep deprived will make it more difficult. Learning new skills and perfecting skills is a key aspect of any sport.

So, how do you improve your sleep to enhance your performance?

Strategies suggested for optimizing sleep in athletes include: 1) identifying the root cause of any sleep issues, 2) introducing some stress-reduction tools like yoga or meditation and 3) following recommended sleep guidelines.

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

  • Develop a bedtime routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day including weekends. Setting a regular schedule allows your circadian rhythm to become regular. You will be able to fall asleep easier and wake up feeling more rested.

  • Find the perfect mattress and pillow for you. There is no optimal bed for everyone. It’s based on personal preference and what helps you feel rested.

  • Avoid nighttime exercises, caffeine, alcohol intake, and sleep aids. These may interfere with sleep and athletic performance.

About the author: Dr. Alex Tauberg D.C. is a chiropractor serving the Fox Chapel & Oakmont areas of Pittsburgh . He practices in an evidence-based manner to get people out of pain and back to enjoying their active lifestyles. Dr. Tauberg has been certified by the University of Pittsburgh as a Primary Spine Practitioner, is a certified chiropractic sports practitioner, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and is an emergency medical responder. He is also the team chiropractor for The Pittsburgh Vengeance.

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