The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Performance

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Elite level athletes have tremendous amounts of stress and pressure to endure, for the sake of performing at peak levels time after time. Sleep loss, might be caused by a busy schedule, travelling, etc. leads to increased anxiety and fatigue which in turn decreases performance (Souissi et al., 2013). According to Fullagar et al., (2015) sleep plays a crucial part to normal cognitive and physiological functioning and homeostasis of human beings. Sleep deprivation can alter this homeostasis process and decrease alertness. Sleep deprivation can be categorized into partial and total sleep deprivation. A sleep deprived person will have trouble staying awake during their regular circadian rhythm. In total sleep deprivation, the person gets no sleep at all. This is more likely to occur in acute situations such as staying awake for 24 hours. In partial sleep deprivation, the person’s sleep is disrupted or reduced due to but not limited to, stimulants, sleep disorders or lifestyle (Weinger & Ancoli-Israel, 2002).

In an article by Souissi and colleagues, (2013), they looked at judo athletes and the effects of partial SD (sleep deprivation) on maximal strength and anerobic power. Moreover, in two different studies, one done by Mamiya, Kubota, Morii, & Goto, (2016), looked at the effects of partial SD on muscular strength and physiological responses of seven male athletes. The second article by Coyle, Casner, & Kornguth, (2018) looks at the influences of specifically 36 hours of SD on physical and cognitive performance. For this review, the focus will be only on the physical performances. Similarly, in an article by Taheri, & Arabameri, (2012) looked at 18 randomly selected participants who were told to stay awake throughout the day and night. They were then to measure the effects of mean and peak power and anerobic performance. The similarity of these articles focusses on SD, either partial or total, and its effect/influence on power and anerobic performance in the means of a Wingate test.

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Taheri, & Arabameri, (2012) took 18 randomly selected male individuals who exercised regularly and put them through a SD protocol. First, they gathered baseline results with normal sleep patterns, then they instructed the participants to stay awake all day and night. Instead of sleeping at 23:00 hours, they remained awake till 7:00-8:00 when they had an isocaloric breakfast. From there they did numerous tests, one being the Wingate test. This test was 30 seconds of all out cycling of a resistance load calculated by this formula, 0.090 kg body mass. In the article by Souissi et al., (2013) they took 12 experienced judo athletes and administered two types of partial SD and measured anerobic performance.

First gathering a baseline where they slept from 22:30 -6:00, then taking 4 hours at the beginning or 4 hours at the end of the night. The judo athletes who were SD in the beginning came into the lab at 22:00 hours and not allowed to sleep until 3:00 hours where they could then sleep to 6:00 hours. The athletes who were SD in the end came into the lab at 22:00 hours and slept at 23:00 hours. They were then awoken at 2:00 and remained awake till 6:00 hours. This study also measured anerobic performance via Wingate test which consisted of 30 seconds of all out cycling at a load of 0.087 kg body mass. A study looking at partial SD effects on muscular strength, they took seven active males and tested their VO2 and muscular strength via 90 min treadmill run at 75% of their VO2 Max, followed by 100 drop jumps from a box of 40inches. The control group slept from 23:00 to 7:00 hours and the studied group had their sleep reduced by 60%. The maximal strength was tested by knee flexion and extension during 20 min submaximal running. They also had time to exhaustion tested, running at 85% of their VO2 max (Mamiya et al., 2016). The article by Coyle and colleagues, looked at SD effects on physical performance of 27 men and women from a U.S. military academy. Day 1 consisted of normal sleep, day 2 consisted of staying awake for the entirety of the day for a total of 36 hours. After the 36 hours, they measured the peak oxygen consumption while cycling via VO2 peak test (2018).


The four articles mentioned, all concluded to similar findings. According to Mamiya et al., (2016), the effects of a single night of partial SD did not hinder maximal strength or VO2. They did find that the time to exhaustion was decreased significantly after partial SD. In addition to these findings, in the article by Coyle et al. (2018), their results concluded, being awake for 36 hours has little effect on aerobic performance and maximal neuromuscular power. However, in the article it was stated a decrease in peak heart rate did appear. In Souissi et al., (2013) study, looking at judo athletes, they found partial SD at the beginning of the night had no effect on anerobic power and partial SD at the end of the night (i.e. Waking up earlier) showed a possible reduction in short term performance only when tested in the afternoon, not in the morning. The results from Taheri, & Arabameri’s study consisted of the mean peak power, and anerobic performance from a Wingate test, both concluding to be unaffected by one night of loss of sleep (2012).

Future Research

Although these articles provided a clear answer as to how sleep effects performance in terms of maximal muscular power and anerobic performance, they are specific and do not allow for generalization to a greater population. Taheri, & Arabameri stated their findings may show greater effects on those who chronically restrict their sleep, referring to majority of the adult population (2012). Future research on the effects of sleep deprivation and physical performance should be targeting college athletes in various sports.

Targeting this population will help pin point if sleep deprivation does effect performance, ways and steps to minimize sleep deprivation and possible figure out the cause of sleep deprivation in that population. This population would be good to further research because high level college athletes who plan to further their career in sports, should not held back by limiting factors such as a lack of sleep due to overload of courses/practice. This may be a two-part study to figure out first if these athletes’ performance is affected by sleep deprivation and second, factors/influences leading to a lack of sleep.

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