Many of the world’s greatest athletes eat, sleep, breathe, and live for their sport. But did you know that in addition to physical conditioning and conscious eating, sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and competitive results?

The quality and amount of sleep athletes get is often the key to winning. REM-sleep in particular provides energy to both the brain and body. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to repair memory, consolidate memory, and release hormones.


We have 2 hormones in our body namely leptin and ghrelin which activates our hypothalamus in the brain. Both hormones send signals to our brain.

Leptin is a satiety hormone which helps to inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance. Leptin is secreted in fat cells in the adipose tissue. Since it reduces hunger, it is a long term regulator of body weight. Ghrelin is our hunger hormone. It tells us when we are hungry and increases our appetite. It is secreted primarily in the lining of our stomach. It is a short term regular of body weight.

Before eating, our ghrelin is high, we are hungry and leptin is low. After eating, ghrelin is low because we have eaten and leptin level goes high to tell us when to stop eating indicating that we are full. That is just to give you a background on how these hormones work and how it influences our eating and hunger processes.



If you do not enough sleep, that can

  • Decreased leptin – leptin is increased after you eat, keeping you fuller for longer
  • Increased ghrelin – increases you hunger hormone
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased appetite for highly refined carbohydrates – since your brain is seeking out for quick energy
  • Decreased glucose tolerance
  • Decreased glucose effectiveness
  • Decreases insulin sensitivity
  • Decreased acute insulin response – which affect in our insulin levels in our body 


  • Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night
  • Regular sleep patterns
  • Regular sleep wake times
  • Breathing techniques to help you relax at night
  • Get more active exercise regularly. People who are more active have less sleeping related problems. Moreover, ghrelin decreases with exercise keeping you fuller for longer.
  • Avoid blue light before and at bedtime. Blue lights come from our phones, laptops or tablets, anything related to computer screen even television. Blue light helps to suppress melatonin production and we need melatonin to help us sleep. Lights Out– one study has shown that two hours of exposure to smartphones, tablets, and laptop displays decreases melatonin – which regulates sleep cycles – by more than 20%.
  • Magnesium can be a good supplement – approximately 300 to 500 mg if deficient. If you feel that you are not able to relax, maybe you have restless legs, twitching that can actually be a sign that you might be deficient in magnesium.



Sleep is something that a lot of people overlook but it can affect your performance, your training, your weight loss goal and muscle gain goals. So,

  • Make sleep a priority
  • Your body recovers when you are asleep
  • You don’t eat when you are asleep as well, so if you are looking to lose weight, you are going to eat fewer calories if you get a good night sleep.
  • Being overtired can increase hunger meaning you are going to eat more food, more calories that can eventually increase you weight.
  • Sabotages your training session
  • Repair muscle, tissues and replaces damaged cells
  • Recharges your brain
  • Aids Protein synthesis which occurs when you are asleep.

Exercise depletes energy, fluids, and breaks down muscle. Hydration and the right fuel are only part of training and recovery. What athletes do in the moments during and immediately after competition also determines how quickly their bodies rebuild muscle and replenish nutrients. This helps maintain endurance, speed, and accuracy.

Some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may also slow recovery post-game.


Fortunately, the foods you eat can play and important role in your ability to sleep.

  • Protein consumption before bed is linked to improved recovery from exercise and ability to train the next day, while also promoting increases in strength gains and muscle mass. Adding cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or a small whey protein shake before bed can help your sleep.
  • Warm Milk has long been believed to help achieve a good night’s sleep; however, many of the early theories have been disproven. Now, however, studies have shown that milk from cow’s milked at night have higher levels of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep, as well as vitamin D, and vitamin D supplementation has been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep.
  • Kiwifruit consumption in individuals with self-reported sleep disorders improved both total time asleep and the amount of time spent in bed actually sleeping.
  • Nuts and Seeds are high in the mineral magnesium, and deficiencies in magnesium can lead to insomnia and “restless leg” at night. Magnesium helps maintain normal levels of blood pressure and blood sugar and promotes relaxation, which promotes a better sleep environment.
  • Use of these devices should be limited before bed, or at a minimum, turned on night mode or dimmed. Supplementing with melatonin should be considered, as well as eating foods naturally containing melatonin such as pineapples, bananas, oranges, oats, and tomatoes.

Whether you’re at the top of your game or in the game for the fun of it, getting the proper amount of sleep is necessary to face the word with your best food forward. Sleep will help you on the road to good fitness, good eating, and good health.



  1. The importance of sleep for athletic performance. Strength and Conditioning Journal.
  2. The importance of sleep in athletic performance.



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