Sleep deprivation - a performance killer

17. January 2023


Exercise and sleep are closely linked. This means: To get the full benefit from a workout, the body needs sleep to recover. And, conversely, you’ll only have enough energy for your next workout if you’ve had enough sleep.

Unfortunately, many people can only dream of an ideal sleep rhythm that makes them feel fit and rested in the morning: Surveys show that around a quarter of the Swiss population suffers from sleep disorders. Insomnia is the term that refers to difficulties falling and staying asleep as well as waking up early. There are around 80 types of sleep disorders, divided into eight subcategories. Insomnia is the most common and well-known type of sleep disorder, alongside sleep apnoea (a sleep disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops and starts).

The massive impact of sleep disorders on people’s physical and mental health becomes clear when you consider the many functions that scientists ascribe to sleep. These functions aren’t yet fully understood, but it’s clear that the body is anything but inactive at night: During sleep, cells are regenerated, the immune system is boosted, hormones are released and memories are formed. However, it’s not uncommon for many people to induce sleep through chemicals: Around eight percent of the Swiss population takes medication in order to sleep.

Physically active people are less likely to suffer from sleep disorders

Generally speaking, physically active people are less likely to suffer from sleep disorders. «Active» does not automatically mean sport, however. It doesn’t matter whether you do running training or just take a walk in the fresh air, the main thing is to exercise on a regular basis. What you need to bear in mind here: If you do sport, you shouldn’t do it too close to going to bed. Doing sport in the evening is absolutely OK, but the body needs a few hours to calm down and reduce adrenaline levels after intensive exercise.

Lack of sleep is a performance killer

Getting enough sleep is essential to achieve top sporting performance, whereas chronic sleep deprivation is «a performance killer» according to the Federal Statistical Office. Over half of people with sleep disorders have low levels of energy and vitality. Lack of sleep also significantly increases the susceptibility to injury when doing sport.

The occasional night of poor or minimal sleep (for instance, if you get nerves on the eve of a competition) has little impact on sporting performance. But long-term sleep disorders can make it difficult to train. Furthermore, people affected in the long term are normally so de-energised that they can’t even think about sport.

However, it’s difficult to say if and how much exercise a body can manage without sleep. And it’s rare for someone not to sleep at all. Though people often feel like they’ve not had a wink of sleep all night, usually they’re mistaken. Still, for the sake of your body: If you’re doing a lot of sport and have trouble sleeping, you should definitely try to sort it out. Only then can you think about intensive training again.