Sleep has numerous important physiological and cognitive functions that are particularly important to athletes. Sleep deprivation can have significant effects on performance, especially submaximal, prolonged exercise. Compromised sleep may also influence learning, memory, cognition, perception of pain, immune function and inflammation.
Research has shown that restricting sleep to less than 6 hours per night for 4 or more consecutive nights can impair cognitive performance and mood, appetite regulation and immune function. Therefore, adults are recommended to get 8 hours of sleep per night to prevent impairments to health and wellbeing.
Increasing the amount of sleep an athlete has may significantly enhance performance, particularly as athletes are susceptible to disturbed or reduced sleep duration. To help promote sleep, it appears that high GI foods may be beneficial if consumed more than 1 h before bedtime and that solid meals may be better than liquid meals. In addition, diets high in carbohydrate may result in shorter sleep latencies, diets high in protein may result in improved sleep quality, and diets high in fat may negatively influence total sleep time.