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Athletic Performance and Sleep

Athletic performance is much more than the broad concept of fitness. Many different factors impact athletic performance such as training, talent, or longevity. Athletes all over the world have continuously searched for a competitive advantage and ways to improve their athletic performance. This drive to constantly improve makes habits to achieving the highest athletic ability possible all the more valuable. Proper sleep is one of the most important habits involved in athletic performance. Sleep not only aids in a positive outcome, but helps athletes recover from strenuous activity. In addition, lack of sleep has

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been shown to hamper an athletes’ ability. Sleep plays a vital role in reaching top athletic performance. Sleep is how the body recharges, regenerates, and rebuilds. Proper sleep habits allow for the brain to rest which can translate into higher jumps, faster sprints, and more focus. There has been an increased amount of research showing sleep playing a role in cognitive behaviors such as memory and retention. For example, a football player having trouble remembering the play book or which way to cut should try getting a full nights’ rest and then taking a look again. A recent study at Stanford showed just how sleep can result in positive athletic performance. Members of the Stanford Basketball team were instructed to follow their normal sleep patterns for two to four weeks. After this, they then were told to sleep for 10 hours a night for a span of five to seven weeks. Most were unable to sleep the entire 10 hours a night but the results were very interesting. In addition to having an overall reported better mood, faster reaction times, and feeling less fatigue, there was

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a decrease in sprint time from 16.2 seconds to 15.5 seconds. Athletes also showed an overall three point field goal percentage that went up 9.2 percent and foul shot percentage increased 9 percent. Just as sufficient sleep has a positive effect on athletic performance, a lack of proper sleep has many negative effects. Glucose is a carbohydrate that plays a role in metabolism and glycogen is the primary storage of glucose for energy, it is this storage that enables endurance and strength. Glucose and glycogen working together efficiently are extremely important for an athlete to achieve top athletic performance. The improper storage of glucose recently was shown by Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., to be related to poor sleep. Eleven men, ages between 18 and 27, slept eight hours per night for three nights, then four hours per night for the next six nights, and 12 hours per night for the following seven. This research showed that after the period of sleeping only four hours per night glucose was being metabolized at the least efficient rate. The stress hormone cortisol was also at its highest during this period. Cortisol is directly linked to memory impairment, stress, and even recovery in athletes. There are many important factors related to top athletic performance; nutrition, repetition, and training just to name a few. Just as it is important to eat right and practice it is equally as important to rest and receive the proper amount of sleep each night. Sleep not only reenergizes the body but also helps an individual focus, improves memory, and is vital for the recovery of the body after strenuous activities. Getting a good nights’ sleep just may win the game!

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