Sleep in any athlete's schedule should be a priority that's right up there with eating right, buying the correct shoes, and keeping a roll of KT Tape in your gym bag. But how much sleep do we need and why is it so important? According to Sports Training Blog post, focusing on Sleep and Athletic Performance, sleep is sometimes the first thing to go while trying to balance training, work, school and life. Sleep can impact performance in three main ways: 1. Lost sleep reduces the performance of the cerebral cortex in the frontal lobe of the brain which is responsible for the most important mental functions in sport- focus, concentration, flexibility, decision making and information processing. 2. The very deep or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep helps consolidate activities, tasks and skills undertaken that day. It is indispensable for helping motor learning and skill acquisition. 3. Sleep is a significant stimulator of growth hormone release - the bodys natural agent for cell growth and reproduction. In addition to acting to increase muscle mass, growth hormone also stimulates the immune system. Sleep deprivation raises levels of the stress hormone Cortisol which may interfere with tissue repair and growth. Besides all the technical and scientific reasons why sleep is important to everyone, sleep is important for better performance, mood, alertness and overall good health. Outlined are seven ways to improve your sleep habits. 1. Have a regular wake up time and go to bed time each day. The body loves consistency and your internal body clock will be set around this regular patterning. Its best to follow this pattern through weekends too, so as to reduce disruption to your body clock. 2. Avoid coffee, alcohol and other stimulants prior to heading to bed. Aim to reduce stimulant intake after 4-6 pm. 3. Try to avoid high intensity exercise and large meals after 7:30pm (assuming bed time of 10pm). 4. Create quiet time before bed. The aim is to reduce stressors and stimulators to allow the mind time to wind down. Just as we do with small children, you might like to create a bed time ritual to allow sleep fullness to grow. Also, limit exposure to loud music, bright lights, computers and work related stress just before bed. 5. Your sleep environment is important so aim for a quiet dark bedroom with a cool temperature. Get the best quality linen, mattress and pillow possible. Consider taking your own linen and pillow when traveling 6. Some say that if you are not asleep in 30 minutes then get out of bed, read or undertake another quiet activity and return to bed when drowsy. Try it and see if it works; otherwise, just lay there quietly and rest - you cant force sleep but if youre relaxed and peaceful youll rest nicely and likely go to sleep. 7. Do not nap within 1-3 hours of bed time. If you do nap in the day then aim for 20-40 minutes around lunch time. The KT Tape team knows that consistent good night rests are important to maintain overall health and happiness in any training schedule. Time for some ZZZ's.