Physical Performance & Sleep


New findings show better sleep linked to improved physical performance.

While weary, overextended Americans are turning to "quick fixes" like caffeine and performance-enhancing supplements, which claim to improve everything from their daily workout to their sex lives, they are losing sight of what experts say is essential to improved performance: a good night's sleep.

In fact, according to the 2008 Better Sleep Month (BSM) national survey, sponsored by the Better Sleep Council (BSC):

  • Respondents getting nine hours of sleep or more are more likely to engage in higher-intensity workouts (biking, running, weight lifting, etc.).
  • Seven in 10 (70 percent) report that they are not getting the recommended amount of sleep needed each night (7.5 hours or more) to perform at their best each day.
  • "Sleep deprivation impacts us physically, which can negatively affect our coordination, agility, mood and energy," says Dr. Bert Jacobson, professor and head of the School of Educational Studies at Oklahoma State University (OSU) and the lead author of the new study Grouped Comparisons of Sleep Quality for New and Personal Bedding Systems. "Research shows that sleep and athletics performance are related as sleeping better and longer leads to improvements in athletic performance, including faster sprint time, better endurance, lower heart rate, and even improved mood and higher levels of energy during a workout."
  • One out of three survey respondents agrees, stating that the best thing about getting a good night's sleep is improved physical performance.

A New Mattress Does a Body Good

The survey also reveals that respondents who report getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night (7.5 is optimal) are more likely to be sleeping on a newer mattress (one to four years old). Survey results also show that those sleeping on a newer mattress are significantly more likely to engage in physical activities than those who sleep on older mattresses:

What's more, the survey found that 81 percent of Americans report waking up with back, neck or shoulder pain in the past year, with nearly half (46 percent) of respondents reporting that they frequently (at least a few times a month) wake up with these types of pain that limit their physical performance.

But there's good news for the majority of people suffering with limited mobility due to back and neck pain. According to Dr. Jacobson's study, published in the Journal of Applied Ergonomics, sleeping on a new mattress can significantly improve sleep quality during the night and reduce physical pain during the day. In fact, when sleeping on new bedding systems, study respondents on average reported significant improvements in:

  1. How can a good night of sleep impact my physical performance?
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  2. If I get a good night of sleep one night (7-8 hours), can I expect my performance (workout, physical activity) to improve immediately?
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  3. In your experience, how does better sleep impact athletes?
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  4. How does lack of sleep affect me overall, including my physical performance, work productivity and mood?
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  5. How can a new mattress improve the quality of sleep I get each night?
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  6. What are some of the factors in my life that I can expect to change and/or improve by sleeping on a new mattress?
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  7. When should I consider replacing my current mattress?
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  8. How many hours of sleep should I get each night?
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  9. How can a new mattress improve the quality of sleep I get each night?
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  1. A good night's sleep sets the optimal stage for, not only physical, but also mental performance. With respect to physical performance, rest and recovery is essential for best physical performance. If you are well rested you will approach social, professional, and physical challenges in the most advantageous state of mind and body. Certainly a positive attitude and confidence can be linked to physical performance, but the physiological and biological systems must be fully recovered in order to perform maximally.
  2. One good night of sleep, in itself, is not a performance enhancer, though it does contribute to both a good mental and physical base to help perform at your maximum level. After consecutive nights of good sleep, you can anticipate seeing sustained results in your physical performance. On the other hand, a poor night's sleep — or consecutive nights of poor sleep — can negatively affect your performance.
  3. In my experience as a former college varsity athlete, I understand how important sleep and quality rest can be in performing your best. As a researcher, I consider three areas of utmost importance to athletes: training, nutrition, and rest. For instance, without sufficient sleep, reaction times suffer, sustained performance drops off, and there is a decline in overall physical functioning. Furthermore, vigilance and alertness are compromised, which will result in poor performance and possibly lead to injury.
  4. While a good night's sleep may not lead to record-breaking performance, lost sleep will impair physical performance, reduce work productivity, and affect mood and disposition. Poor sleep is associated with anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, while adequate sleep improves attitudes, moods, and promotes feelings of self esteem and competence — all of which are tied to physical performance.
  5. Sleep problems can be caused by a host of factors ranging from physical discomfort, stress, and environmental factors to pathology. For the �average� person, better sleep quality can be as simple as a new mattress. Amazingly, most people don�t consider that they can outlive their beds to the same extent that they realize they can outlive their car or their dishwasher. Based on our research, I consider a new mattress to be an important factor in attaining improved sleep. As we found and suggest, if a new mattress can significantly improve sleep quality, it is a much healthier alternative than many other options.
  6. From what we have seen in our studies is that replacing an older mattress (5 years or older) with a new, good quality, medium-firm mattress can significantly reduce discomforts such as shoulder and back pain, and back stiffness, and can significantly increase sleep quality and comfort. Not only were such benefits realized immediately, but they were sustained over time. Furthermore, research has found that certain stress behavior and symptoms decrease with greater sleep quality leading us to believe that sleep deprivation is associated with stress. Thus, in reducing stress we can expect to improve physical, psychological, and emotional factors.
  7. Most mattresses come with a manufacturers guarantee for 10, 15, or 20 years, but this only refers to the materials and not the structure or support. There are many factors that determine the time when one should replace a mattress. For instance, what was the initial quality of the bed? How heavy is the person sleeping in the bed? Heavier individuals can place more stress on the support system of the mattress, thus reducing its longevity. Amazingly, the average age of peoples� mattress is around 10 years, which would mean it has yielded over 25,000 hours of support. That�s over 1,050 days spent on the mattress! I think it is overoptimistic to believe that your mattress can maintain its original support for that long and with that much use.
  8. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, a good rule of thumb is to occasionally assess your sleep quality and the quality of your mattress. Just like any product frequently used, mattresses need to be replaced regularly. After five to seven years of use, a mattress may no longer provide the comfort and support needed for optimum rest. The Better Sleep Council recommends that you assess your mattress at the five to seven year mark to determine if a replacement is needed.
  9. The standard recommendation is that an individual get eight hours of sleep a night, 7.5 to 8.5 is optimal. But the latest Better Sleep Council survey found that a majority, 73 percent, of Americans are only getting seven hours of sleep or less in a given work week. In fact, 70 million Americans are affected by sleep problems. That figure has grown over the past 20 years and is expected to reach 100 million by the middle of the 21st century. To help get an adequate amount of sleep each night, it is important to keep a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Even on the weekends it�s important to stick to your bedtime routine and regular bedtime and wake-up schedule.

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