Cognitive and physiological impairment inevitably results when the CNS is fatigued. Brain scans have indicated that lack of sleep affects blood flow within the brain. The lack of blood within the brain can affect cognitive and physical performance. Cognitive impairment is characterized by an inability to focus, memory loss, increased anxiety, decreased reaction time, decreased motivation, irritability, and emotional instability. Physiological impairment is characterized by physical exhaustion, increased susceptibility to infections, fatigue and decreased speed and power.
Catabolic hormones (e.g., epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol) are emitted due to sleep deprivation, inhibiting muscle growth. On the other hand, anabolic hormones (e.g., testosterone, human growth hormone) are released when adequate sleep has occurred, enhancing muscle growth. Performance potential is therefore predicated on sleep quality and quantity.
Here are some tips to get better quality sleep:
- Make sleep a priority
- Strive to get at least seven hours of sleep each night by going to bed at an earlier time (i.e., 15 minutes)
- Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule by going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day including weekends
- Take a brief nap (e.g., less than 20 minutes) during the afternoon (i.e., 2-4pm)
- Avoid stimulants (e.g., caffeine, nicotine) as well as depressants (e.g., alcohol) two hours prior to bedtime
- Exercise regularly but avoid exercising within two hours before bed
- Take a bath before bedtime
- Avoid eating a big meal before bedtime
- Spend less time watching TV and using the computer at night
- Develop a routine conducive to sleep (i.e., light reading, soft music)
- Make your sleep environment comfortable and conducive to sleep (i.e., comfortable bed, dark and quite room, cool ambient temperature)
- Use earplugs or a white-noise machine to block out sounds
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."