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Sleep in endurance sports – Part 1: Sleep duration and phases

We start today’s #ScienceFriday with our new series: Regeneration in sports by sleep. In the coming weeks, we will summarise the most important information on the topic briefly and concisely. 

Sleep

„Not simply the absence of waking, sleep is a special activity of the brain, controlled by an elaborate and precise mechanism.“
„Not simply a state of rest, sleep has its own specific, positive functions.“

  • A distinction is made between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM stages 1-3 (NREM).
  • NREM sleep is divided into three stages and is associated with a progressive increase in sleep depth (Carskadon & Dement, 2011).

Sleep duration

Source: National Sleep Foundation (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need)

NREM-Phase 1

  • Start of the sleep cycle
  • Transition period between wakefulness and sleep
  • Light sleep phase
  • Duration: 5-10 minutes

NREM-Phase 2

  • People become less aware of their surroundings
  • Body temperature decreases by 0.4 – 1.0 degrees Celsius (1)
  • Breathing and heart rate become more regular
  • Duration: 20 minutes (2)

NREM-Phase 3

  • Muscles relax
  • drop in blood pressure and respiratory rate
  • Deepest sleep occurs (3)
  • Distribution of growth hormones (4)
  • Healing of micro-damages is accelerated

REM

  • The brain becomes more active
  • The body is relaxed and immobilised
  • You start to dream
  • The eyes move fast
  • Muscular atony (lack of normal muscle tone)

Contemporary studies

  • Optimal conditions for anabolism (5)
  • A valuable resource for psychological and physiological well-being (6)
  • More deep sleep means increased regeneration
  • In the middle of the night, the melatonin release reaches its maximum
  • Melatonin: antioxidant and radical scavenging capacity → Cell repair (7)

References:

  1. Murphy, P. J., & Campbell, S. S. (1997). Nighttime drop in body temperature: a physiological trigger for sleep onset?. Sleep, 20(7), 505-511
  2. Brinkman JE, Sharma S. Physiology, Sleep. StatPearls Publishing. Updated March 16, 2019.
  3. Singh S, Kaur H, Singh S, Khawaja I. Parasomnias: A Comprehensive Review. Cureus. 2018;10(12):e3807. doi:10.7759/cureus.3807
  4. Siegel JM. REM sleep: a biological and psychological paradox. Sleep Med Rev. 2011;15(3):139-42. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2011.01.001
  5. Shapiro, C.M., R. Bortz, D. Mitchell, P. Bartel, and P. Jooste (1981). Slow-wave sleep: a recovery period after exercise. Science 214:125 3-125 4
  6. Caia, J., Kelly, V. G., & Halson, S. L. (2018). The role of sleep in maximising performance in elite athletes. Sport, recovery, and performance: Interdisciplinary insights, 151-167.
  7. Reimer, J., Feld, M., & Froböse, I. (2016). Schlaf & Sport–Feder und Nut der Fitness. Schlaf, 5(02), 64-66.