There is a view in coaching that getting athletes up early for strength and conditioning is a positive. This would be true if we could monitor when they went to sleep, how much they slept, it’s quality and much of their daily and evening activities for an extended amount of time.
We adapt to the cyclical day-night environment through our daily rhythms of our physiology, our sleep and wakefulness patterns, as well as our behaviors. These ‘daily rhythms’ set the circadian time-keeping system, which is a hierarchical network with the central clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. The suprachiasmatic nucleus, the “master clock” of the brain or usually referred to as SCN, is a tiny cone shaped region of the hypothalamus that synchronizes and coordinates peripheral clocks elsewhere in the body and regulates everything from sleep, to alertness, to hormone levels, body temperature, the immune system, digestion, cognitive function and physical activity.
Sleep is essential, the rule of thumb is it takes 1 day to readjust for every hour 1-hour change in environmental time. You cannot cheat circadian time getting up without 8-10 hours of sleep requires the body to adjust. Each athlete has a preferred sleep schedule that suits his or her circadian phase and this directly aﬀects sleep length and sleep quality. The circadian phase is both genetically and environmentally determined. For those who prefer to go to bed late and sleep in and who then have to wake up at 5:30 AM to train at 6 AM, will curtail their sleep by 2 to 4 hours per night. These athletes’ miss critical periods of rapid eye movement and slow wave sleep and do not develop optimally.
Athletes spend countless hours training, many in well-organized sophisticated programs having the latest technology, strength coaches, athletic trainers and dietitians. But when it is all said and done it is sleep that is essential for maintenance of skeletal muscle health. Sleep debt decreases the activity of protein synthesis pathways and increases the activity of degradation pathways. Lack of sleep favors the loss of muscle mass and hinders muscle recovery after damage induced by exercise or injuries.
Pendulum 3- Way Row
The best regulator of sleep patterns is the athlete educated about sleeps value. Having a program that allows the athlete to match their life long sleeping patterns and the rigors of school with their training and practice schedules, by giving them freedom to select conditioning times that best fit their sleep behaviors enhances their development.
In Greek Mythology Sysyphus was a legendary king of Corinth, who was condemned eternally to repeatedly roll a heavy ‘rock up a hill in Hades only to have it roll down again as it neared the top. Working hard but never quite getting to the top is not what a coach or athlete wants. Sleep is part of the equation. Coaches cannot ‘coach sleeping so to speak’ they must educate and provide the training times for the athlete to get the most out of their development. Get the ‘rock to the top and Get Strong.