Lack of sleep can severely impair your sports performance. Recent research showed that when healthy young men were restricted to four hours sleep for just 6 nights, their hormone profiles replicated those of elderly or depressed individuals.
The implications for athletes are equally profound. Sleep deprivation can lead to reduced cardiovascular performance (11% in one study), a reduction of glucose metabolism of up to 40%, and symptoms of accelerated aging.
One reason for this seems to be hormonal changes associated with sleep deprivation. These can lead to increased hunger and appetite - in another recent study, just two days of restricted sleep led subjects eat up to 45% more calorie-dense carbohydrate foods.
Indeed, there are many nutrients that can have either a positive or negative effect on our sleep - understanding what to eat and when, and just as importantly what to avoid, can also make a big difference.
It is therefore crucial that you do everything you can to ensure that you get the sleep you need to maximize the effects of your training.
There are a number of steps you can take, some concerned with sleep habits, others dietary, to reduce the effects of lack of sleep on your performance.