The Athlete's Journal

April 2017: Volume 1

Sleep and Performance

Athletes place extreme focus on their training, their intervals, their time working out.  But too often, they fail to give the same respect to their sleep. When you stress the body, fitness improves during the “rest and recovery” phase.  On a day-to-day basis, this requires sleep.  Yet many athletes carry a significant sleep debt which sabotages their training effort.  The sports medicine literature has numerous studies that highlight the need for a certain quality and quantity of sleep in order to ensure optimal performance gains.

Not only does proper sleep promote improved performance, but sleep deprivation has been tied directly to an increased injury rate.  And it’s hard to perform well when injured!

Here is a short list of conclusions from scientific studies in the sports medicine literature regarding sleep and athletes:

  • Basketball players show increased shooting percentage and reaction times when sleeping appropriate amounts.
  • Sleep deprivation leads to earlier exhaustion when working out.
  • Adequate sleep increases tolerance to pain…which leads to stopping workouts early or an inability to push through a set or interval.
  • As little as one night of sleep deprivation can decrease endurance performance.

Sleep is definitely an under-appreciated component of fitness and performance.  Even the most novice athlete hopes to make gains when they train, but so many of us limit those gains by sleeping too little or sleeping poorly.  Prioritize your sleep to truly maximize your training.

If you are interested in one way to track and trend your sleep and the variables that impact it, read the brief intro to the WHOOP wearable below.


Athlete Profile - Clay Murfet

DOB: Feb 22 1989

Born Tasmania, Australia.

Racing for Crit Life

Born and bred in Tasmania, Australia. I grew up playing all sports, competing for Tasmania in Australian rules football, basketball, cycling and running.   When I was 17 I decided to leave Australia to pursue my only passion which was cycling. I have raced professionally since 2009 racing all around the world. I now reside in Knoxville. TN racing for Crit Life.

Podium Sports Medicine has been an integral part of my career since moving to Knoxville.  Working with Dr Kevin has given me more insight into getting that extra 1% out of my body.  His experience, knowledge and dedication to his profession is zero to non.  I have the highest respect for him and Podium Medicine.

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WHOOP Sleep Tracking

For the past few months, I’ve been testing a WHOOP.  What’s a WHOOP?  It’s basically a fitness tracker with complex monitoring which is tailored to athletes.  The band is worn on the wrist and follows your heart rate, heart rate variability, temperature, sleep patterns, etc.  And it gives you detailed information into your training stress (or “strain”) and recovery.  I plan to write a more comprehensive review of it soon, but here I want to quickly discuss its utility for sleep tracking.

As you read above, adequate sleep is paramount for athletic performance!  It can be hard to know what “adequate sleep” is though.  Every person is different, and varied daily challenges can lead to very different sleep requirements.  Using a tool like WHOOP can help an athlete know how long they are sleeping, how well they are sleeping, and if that sleep is adequate to recover from daily strain.

So what does WHOOP track with regard to sleep?

  • Time in bed
  • Time asleep
  • Sleep latency (how long did it take to fall asleep)
  • Disturbances
  • Sleep cycles (REM, light, deep)

With this info and their algorithm, you are then given a Sleep Performance score.  Every athlete likes a score!  REM sleep helps your brain recover, while deep sleep is when your body repairs itself.  You can open the app and dig into this detail, or you can simply look at your Sleep and Recovery Scores when planning your day, confident that you can handle the planned strain.  Of course, you can also know when you should take an unplanned rest day.  Additionally, you can track the impact on your sleep from variables such as alcohol, screen time, sharing a bed, etc.

It’s important to understand the impact of sleep on performance, but if you can’t quantify and qualify your sleep, it is hard to make appropriate changes.  I’ve found the WHOOP to be very useful for this purpose.


Q&A - Hydration

Submit your questions to be answered by Dr. Kevin Sprouse.  Since this is the first edition of this newsletter, we'll link to THIS ONE.  Hydration is an important part of performance, and it's important for tissue health.  Use this tip to start your day off right.