7 Ways to Optimize Your Sleep for Athletic Performance
What do athletes like Lebron James, Roger Federer, Lindsay Vonn, and Usain Bolt all have in common? In addition to being at the top of their respective sports, they all prioritize sleep, noting that getting enough of it is an important part of their recovery. The quality and quantity of sleep are both essential factors for allowing athletes’ hearts to rest while their cells and tissues repair. Plus, since sleep helps you retain and consolidate new memories, prioritizing this crucial recovery time gives athletes a leg up in cognitive processes (like decision-making and perfecting new skills).
You may not be a professional athlete, but do you want to run faster, lift heavier, and jump higher? If so, the secret is in your sleep. Here’s what to know about how precision medicine can help you optimize your sleep for athletic performance.
Why Does Precision Medicine Matter When It Comes to Sleep?
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you generally feel refreshed after a quick nap, or are you better served by trying to go to bed a little earlier? You might think these sleep statistics are matters of personal preference, but genetics actually influence how quickly (or sluggishly) the internal clock runs.
So, how do you know which sleep schedule is best for you? Through Wild Health’s DNA testing, we can establish what type of rest or sleep cycles to which you are genetically predisposed. That way, you know exactly how much sleep you need to get in order to perform at your best — instead of just guessing.
Related: What Is Precision Medicine, and Why Should Athletes Care About It?
In this DNA testing, Wild Health looks for certain SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), a common type of genetic variation. These are a few of the SNPs that give us clues about your personal sleep patterns, and what might be impacting them:
- ADORA2: caffeine sensitivity
- BDNF: influences slow-wave sleep and REM
- CLOCK: affects sleep duration and preferences
- COMT: affects sleep duration, REM latency, WASO, sleep onset latency
- CRY1, 2: a family of blue light photoreceptor genes affecting circadian clock of light/dark cycles
- MTNRB: associated with REM sleep latency and melatonin secretion
- MTNR1A: encodes for a high-affinity form of a melatonin receptor
- NPAS2: involved in circadian rhythm and very similar to the CLOCK genes
- PER1, 2, 3: circadian rhythm
- TNFa: sleep disturbances
The Best Sleep Hacks for Optimizing Your Sleep
Of course, your ideal sleep hacks will depend on your unique DNA, your lifestyle, and more. But in general, these hacks will help you optimize your sleep and perform at your highest level.
- Inner Balance Heart Rate Variability training, which improves your body’s ability to tolerate stress (learn more on this podcast episode)
- Neurofeedback training, which can lead to specific neural changes as you learn how to self-regulate your brain activity
- Using binaural beats to produce theta and delta waves and induce sleep (learn more about sound therapy here)
- Gratitude journaling, which has been shown to support physiological restorative behaviors, including sleep
- Relieving stress through meditation, deep breathing techniques, and physically writing out things that need to be done the next day (a.k.a. “brain dumping”)
- Progressive muscle relaxation, a form of body scan meditation that helps release stress before bed
While it’s tempting to train harder to reach your goals, remember that training smarter can have an even bigger impact, especially when it comes to optimizing your sleep. After all, the difference between a poor night of sleep and a solid eight hours could be the difference between breaking a personal record on the Spartan race course and hitting the wall at mile 5.
Related: 5 Ways You Can Improve Your Health Right Now
By understanding your unique DNA and how that relates to your sleep, you’re one step closer to becoming unbreakable. Wild Health, Spartan’s official healthcare partner, can easily help you unlock that deep understanding of how genetics affect your sleep, diet, exercise, recovery, and more.