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The Most Important Supplement (USA Swimming article)

THE MOST EFFECTIVE SUPPLEMENT 

(USA Swimming link:  http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewNewsArticle.aspx?TabId=2175&itemid=6445&mid=13116)


     

10/27/2014

 

Sleeping athlete illustration. (Small)BY DAN MCCARTHY//HIGH PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT

Cheri Mah’s unexpected discovery during her initial research in 2002 at Stanford has taken root in professional and collegiate sports, forcing coaches and administrators to rethink their approach to helping their athlete’s recover. What athlete would not benefit from being sharper, having a more positive mood and possessing quicker reaction times? When she narrowed her study to find specific responses, she turned to the Stanford Men’s Basketball Team for a three-year study. Her published work suggests that when supplementing for five to seven weeks, the player’s specific skills improved as well. They ran faster, their three-point shooting improved by 9%, as did their free-throw shooting. 

 

Did I mention it is free, organic, non-GMO and available to everyone? The supplement in question? More Sleep!


More specifically, Mah’s study examined the concept of Sleep Extension. The players in the basketball study got their normal amount of sleep for two to four weeks. For the next five to seven weeks they added naps to their schedule and tried to get 10 hours of sleep each night. Scientists are now researching exactly why extra sleep seems to produce such improvements. Some interesting and useful investigations have turned up great insight for all athletes, including swimmers.

  • The neural pathways of activities from the day’s practice are reinforced at night during sleep, but it seems as if the big benefits don’t begin occurring until seven hours of sleep.
  • Teen athletes that regularly get eight or more hours of sleep each night are 68% less likely to get injured than those that regularly slept less than eight hours.
  • Eliminating certain practices helps athletes get a better night sleep. On the list? Bright lights, iPads and lattes, to name a few. Dim the lights for a ½-hour before going to sleep to help create a more restful atmosphere; no blue-light emitting electronics in bed (the blue light tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime); and no caffeine or other stimulants after 4:00 PM.

The USOC, the NBA and the US Army have all invested money in sleep research and either changed or proposed changes to the way they do things, not only to help athletes and soldiers get quality rest, but to improve their performance when it counts.