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How Sleep Affects Your Training Performance & Recovery

Sleep is important for the health of your body and mind. It can affect our mood, productivity, creativity and decision-making throughout the day as well as affect our training and recovery efforts. While we are asleep, we will typically pass through four stages of sleep however this can vary based on age, abnormal sleep patterns, the influence of alcohol or drugs, and sleep disorders.

The four stages of sleep are determined by brain activity and they include

  • Stage One (Non-REM / Light Sleep)
  • Stage Two (Non-REM / Mild Sleep)
  • Stage Three (Non-REM / Deep Sleep)
  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement)
Stage 1

Stage one is the lightest stage of Non-REM (NREM) sleep. Often defined by the presence of slow rolling eye movements, this drowsy sleep stage can be easily disrupted. Muscle tone throughout the body relaxes and brain wave activity begins to slow from that of being awake. Occasionally people may experience brief movements and may even experience the sensation of falling while drifting in and out of this stage.

Stage 2

Stage two is the first actual stage of defined NREM sleep. Disruption does not occur as easily and the slow-moving eye rolls discontinue. Brain waves continue to slow, however specific bursts of rapid activity known as sleep spindles intermixed with sleep structures known as K complexes occur which actually contribute to resisting the brain from awakening. We spend almost half of the night in stage two of sleep. Our body temperature drops, and our heart rate slows as we prepare for the next stage of restorative deep sleep.

Stage 3

Stage three is known as deep sleep (Non-REM) and is the most restorative of all the stages. It is difficult to awaken someone in this stage and brain activity is reduced to delta waves / slow waves. Parasomnias also occur like sleepwalking, abnormal movements or sleep terrors. Experts believe this deep sleep is essential for restorative functions, allowing for recovery and growth to maintain mental and physical performance. Your immune system also restores itself and during this stage the brain is known to contribute to insightful thinking, creativity and memory.


REM sleep, also known as rapid eye movement, is most commonly known as the dreaming stage. Brain activity increases, eye movements become rapid moving from side to side and the brain is more easily awakened while the heart rate increases and the body loses some of its ability to regulate its temperature. Limb muscles are also temporarily paralysed as a protective means to keep a person from acting out their dreams. Being awoken in the REM stage is also associated with the feeling of grogginess or being overly sleepy.

A person typically experiences three to five REM periods throughout sleep time with the longest REM period right before awakening for the day. If woken prematurely, such as from an alarm clock, a person can experience a period of sleep inertia whereby a heightened sensation of sleepiness or drowsiness can occur for several minutes or even several hours. This is why it is a good idea to plan your sleep so that you are going to bed 8 hours before you wish to wake.
It is important to know how sleep affects your training. Quality sleep is essential for muscle recovery and repair, no matter your goal. This is why it’s a good idea to plan your sleep so that you are going to bed 8 hours before you wish to wake and practice healthy sleep hygiene. You’ll also be able to improve reaction time, accuracy and endurance along with power, strength and sprint performance.

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