How to Stay Sane When Injured

As you probably know by now, I am injury prone, and just had surgery to fix an ongoing problem in my knee. Throughout my career as a dancer, and now a fitness professional, I’ve faced various amounts of time off due to injures, and have slowly learnt to accept that when my body says stop, I need to listen to it. Being that my job has always been physical, time off often means a lot of time at home on my own, which can have a psychological effect too. Injuries can be so frustrating, but I’ve found some ways to stay sane when I can’t do the thing I love every day.Health, fitness, injury

Don’t Rush It

Hands up, who’s pushed an injury too far and needed to take more time off than was originally necessary. Yep, me too. As frustrating as it is, doctors and physiotherapists usually know what they’re talking about. If they say rest, then rest. By all means, smash out your rehab exercises, but don’t run before you can walk…literally.

Train What You Can

On the flip side of resting when you’re told to rest, do think about what you can do that won’t affect the injured part. For example, if you’ve broken your ankle, you can still do some light upper body work, maybe some core work too. If it’s a dislocated shoulder, then as long as you can keep your balance, get some lunges or squats in or pop into a static bike. Be cautious though, raising your heart rate can increase swelling in the injured area as blood rushes around the whole body. Keep an eye on it, and stop if you experience any throbbing or excessive swelling in the area.

Find a Non-Active Hobby

Take up something new, or dust off your old guitar, paint brushes, or knitting and practise something that doesn’t require physical exertion. You won’t just exercise your brain, but you’ll also find a means of distraction from pain, discomfort or boredom. If you’re really laid up, then something as simple as mindful colouring might be enough to stop the endless Netflix binge, just for an hour or two. If you can stand and cook, then try a new recipe, or bake a cake. You’ll be proud of your achievement, and who knows, you might discover a new talent.

Be Mindful

I don’t just mean be mindful of your injury, but be mindful of the world around you. If you’re forced to walk slowly, instead of being frustrated by this, take it as an opportunity to see the world around you as you walk. Take it all in, use all your senses and you might find a renewed appreciation for your local park, or even your daily commute. Practise meditation as well. If you’re stuck at home, potentially on your own, it’s going to be a time where anxious or negative thoughts are harder to dispel. Take 15 minutes each day to meditate, use an app if you need to, and you’ll find you can approach your injury and recovery in a more positive way.fitness, health, injury

I’m trying to apply all these things to my current knee injury, and it’s not easy! There are days where I’m grumpy, frustrated and bored, but that’s ok too. Life isn’t always calm, serene and blissful, but if you try and roll with the punches, be kind to yourself and accept what’s happening, you’ll come out the other side calmer and able to see the positives.

Photo credit: Elle Linton.

Preparing For Surgery – My Personal Guide

Despite my best efforts, unfortunately I’m no stranger to injury and injury related surgery. In my *almost* 32 years on this planet, I’ve been told my injury list reads like that of a 75 year old and I’ve had, as of yesterday, 6 surgical procedures. All bar one of those operations have been in the last 12 years. Through my own experiences, I’ve found a few things that have really helped me both before and after surgery. Now remember, I’m not a doctor, these are just my personal experiences and how they’ve worked for me.

Find Your Support Network

Firstly, you will usually be required to have a chaperone take you home from hospital, and that’s non-negotiable if you’ve had a full anaesthetic. Arrange this early on with someone you trust and who you are really comfortable with. You are going to be in the dozy post-anaesthetic phase, possibly feeling nauseous, in pain, and wanting to sleep or cry….or both. I’ve always gone to my Mum’s after each of my surgeries, there’s nothing better than Mum time, but whoever you choose, prepare them for a grumpy, soggy, cloudy version of you, possibly high on morphine as well.

Going back to before the surgery, it’s not required but you might want someone in hospital with you beforehand as well. My arrival time for this week’s surgery is an eye-watering 6am, but I know from experience that I won’t be taken into the operating theatre until at least 8am or 9am. Why so early? You might ask. Well there are potentially lots of people on the surgeon’s list that day, they all need their observations, a chat with the anaesthetist, a final check in with the surgeon, after-care explained (remember the post-anaesthetic brain fog), and to generally get comfortable. It can be a long, anxious wait, and unless you’re in a private hospital, you could be in a ward full of other people waiting too. Having someone with you to chat with will pass the time, and calm your nerves. I’m lucky enough to be having this done privately, meaning I have my own room with a TV, but company before the op will still be a welcome distraction.

After surgery, depending on what it is of course, you might need help at home with cooking, cleaning and maybe even showing and dressing. Grab your support network; friends, partner, colleagues, flatmates, those who you’re comfortable with, and ask them to be around in case you need anything. Don’t be afraid, don’t sit in pain, hungry and embarrassed to ask for their help. This is a time where you cannot do everything for yourself, despite being Miss Independent, especially if doing too much might hinder your recovery.

Plan Ahead

Most likely you’ll have planned all the technical things with your surgeon beforehand, but there are a few things I’ve found to be really helpful when I’m not so mobile and not so able to do things for myself.

Bulk cook food – Having a hearty chilli, bolognese, chicken stew or soup in the freezer is such a good idea. For the days when you perhaps can’t call on someone to help you, or you simply haven’t got anything to cook, popping a pre-prepared meal in the microwave is going to be a lifesaver. When your body is healing and recovering you need to be well nourished.

Clean the house – If you’re going to be on crutches, then you can’t be tripping over junk in the hallway or that pile of clothes at the end of your bed. If you can have a good tidy up before the day of the operation, and if your injury prevents you from doing that, then maybe treat yourself to a professional clean. Alternately, remember your support network? Pick the most ‘Monica-like’ and ask them to help.

Do your laundry – Bed sheets, clothes, dressing gown, towels. There’s nothing nicer than clean sheets when you’re not quite feeling yourself, so having all that done for when you return home will be so comforting. The same applies for your favourite pyjamas, and your comfy clothes. You’ll likely be living in these for a few days, if not more, so make sure they’re clean and ready.

Breathe

The thing I’m most worried about is the general anaesthetic. I don’t like being put to sleep, not having control and going into this empty dreamland. I’ve also had bad reactions upon waking before which make me more anxious about the aftermath. On the flip-side of that, having a local anaesthetic isn’t my cup of tea either, so I’m not sure which I’d rather.

I’ve been practising some breathing techniques to help me cope with the nerves before surgery, and at the moment of being put under anaesthetic. Also, my therapist suggest a little mindfulness and visualisation as well, to help calm my head on the morning of.

Take deep breaths – The more anxious we’re feeling, the more shallow our breathing becomes. Taking three deep breaths can help to settle nerves, filling the lungs with oxygen and calming the parasympathetic nervous system. Think of breathing in for 4 counts, and breathing out for 6 or 8.

Visualise your happy place – pick a place where you have always felt calm and happy. That could be your bed, childhood home, a bath, or holiday spot. Mine is my favourite beach near my Dad’s house in Portugal listening to the waves crashing. Just as the anaesthetist starts preparing to send you to sleep, have this image firmly in your head and you’ll be in that happy place for the whole time you’re under.

Don’t Rush Recovery

This is one I really have to pay attention to myself. Listen to the doctors, physiotherapists and specialists when they tell you to rest, and recuperate. Don’t wait until you’re in excruciating pain to take your painkillers, and admit to yourself that you’ll have to rest for a while. The effects of the anaesthetic can be long lasting in some cases, and feeling groggy, emotional and weak comes hand in hand with that. It can feel very frustrating, but know that it’s only temporary.

Now I’m back home with my Mum and enjoying some R&R, I can see how each of the points above helped me through the operation. I’m looking forward to getting back to my flat in a few days because I’ve got lots of food prepped, clean towels and a tidy house all ready and waiting for me. I’ve got lots of friends offering to pop over for company and food, and the cat is always on hand for a hug. My recovery will be slow and steady, but if I am good with my physiotherapy exercises, don’t rush things and look after myself, I’ll be back on my feet in no time!

What I Learnt from Taking an Instagram Break

Social media is a huge presence in our lives these days, and the more I hear about the dangers of social media for young and vulnerable people, the more I hear of people taking time away from it too. The constant updating, notifications, liking, sharing, and everything else that comes with sharing your life online, can be overwhelming and at times intimidating. Whether you use social media as a simple communication tool, or if it’s part of your business as well, it can become a constant distraction and at times, a source of anxiety. In fact, research shows that the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to suffer from mental health issues. Multiple studies have begun to focus on the disturbing association between online social networking and a variety of negative feelings and psychiatric disorders such as low self-esteem, anxiety, feelings of inferiority and increased symptoms of ADHD (source).

I love instagram. I am a hugely visual person and use it for inspiration, amusement, research, and of course to see what my friends are up to around the world. Being a blogger, and now a PT, it’s expected that I share a portion of my life with the wider world, and even use the platform as a marketing tool for new clients. It can become an integral part of everyday life, and not always in a positive way.

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(Credit: Elle Linton)

After a particularly stressful end to 2017, the lead up to Christmas was an anxious time for me. I wasn’t feeling festive, and seeing everyone else’s seemingly happy posts about Christmas plans, romantic getaways and family gatherings filled me with both envy and sadness. Why wasn’t I feeling festive? Why is everyone so happy and I’m not? I’ll freely admit that I got caught up in the endless cycle of scrolling though instagram feeling that my life was rubbish and everyone else’s was great. Now, I know that social media is a tiny snapshot of someone’s life and that it should be taken with a pinch of salt, however, when you’re already in a low mood, it can be hard to find that rational voice in your head.

Feeling low, stressed, and generally overwhelmed, I decided to take a step away from the ‘gram. After a couple of days of feeling a little lost when I opened my phone, I soon enjoyed the break and only returned on January 1st 2018. With a better perspective on things, I now want to share with you what I learned with nearly 3 weeks away from instagram.

1. It’s a Habit That’s Hard to Break

The first thing I noticed when I deleted the app is that whenever I opened my phone, on the bus, tube, when I got home from work etc, the first thing I’d do is go to click on instagram. It’s purely a habit, much like checking the time, and checking my emails, and it took a while to break that. Instead, I’d tap on my favourite podcast, meditation app, or find some music to listen to instead.

2. The Reason I Took Photos Had Changed

I love photography. Since my teenage years I’ve always taken a camera on nights out, birthdays, family events, last days of term, even lazy days in the park as a student. I even took photography as one of my A-Levels.  I love having photographic memories of these events, and have piles of photo albums full of prints. Soon that changed from always having a camera, to always taking photos on my phone. No problem there, but when I deleted instagram, I realised that when I opened the camera on my phone, my thought process was to take a photo for instagram, not to take a photo to savour the memory. My reason for taking photographs had shifted. Over Christmas, I took photos that I wanted to cherish that might never appear on social media. One of my favourites being the three generations of women in my family….ok I did put that one on facebook eventually…but that wasn’t the reason I took it. Not to mention some hilarious photos of me with my nieces. Taking photos should be about the memory, not about the ‘instagram-ability’.

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3. Followers Come and Go

The burning question in your heads if you’re a blogger is probably ‘Did you lose a load of followers?’ – well the simple answer is yes…but not a lot. My following dropped by about 2%, that feels like quite a lot when I’m not a blogger with a huge following in the first place, but I really wasn’t bothered by that. The followers I regularly interact with were still there when I logged back in, my engagement didn’t take too long to return, and I expect most of the loss was from bots unfollowing a seemingly inactive account. Followers will stick around for fresh content from a calmer, less anxious me, and if they didn’t, well I don’t want them following me anyway.

4. Nothing Bad Happened

Taking a break from instagram didn’t ruin my career. I didn’t miss half a dozen events. I didn’t lose all my followers. I didn’t become an online outcast. Nothing bad happened. In fact, I found time and space in my life to meditate, have wonderful conversations with my mum / brothers / friends without the need to check my phone or photograph my Christmas dinner, or ‘insta-story’ our Monopoly game. Not criticising those who do that, AT ALL. This post is not about telling people they should spend less time on instagram. What I want to say is; if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the constant online stimulation, feel that you’re falling into the comparison zone, or simply need to step away from your phone….it’s OK!! If you do take a break, I’d recommend deleting the app to avoid temptation 😉

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(Credit: Elle Linton)

My instagram hiatus was exactly what I needed. Now I’m happy to not post for a day or two, happy to not spend half an hour each morning scrolling through posts in bed, and happy in the knowledge that while social media is a part of my life I enjoy most of the time, it’s also something I can step back from when I need to practice self-care. If you’re thinking about taking a break, give it a go!

4 of my Favourite Super Smoothies

I love a good smoothie, and will happily have one for breakfast, as a post-workout refuel, or as a liquid afternoon snack. Smoothies can help you increase your daily intake of fruit or vegetables, allow for a light meal on the go (note: light meal, I don’t use smoothies as a meal replacement apart from breakfast) and also help with hydration levels. Having recently spent an evening with John Lewis Retail, talking all things blender related, I thought I’d share some smoothie facts, and some my favourite recipes, with you all.

smoothies, health, nutrition

Did you know that the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables has increased? It is now advised that adults should consume 2 portions of fruit, and a whopping 7 portions of vegetables per day. If this sounds like a little too much for your dinner plate, then smoothies are the way to go. Increasing the amount of vegetables as opposed to fruits helps to control sugar intake and the effects of acidic fruit on the teeth and stomach acid / gut health. The liquid element of a smoothie also helps with hydration especially if, like me, you’re not so good with drinking plain water. Just a 2% decrease in hydration level can affect performance in work or exercise, and stimulants such as tea or coffee only exacerbate the dehydration in the body.

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When Should I Have My Smoothie?

There are many schools of thought as to when the optimum time should be to pre-fuel, or re-fuel before or after exercise. I am going by what I learnt while studying for my nutrition diploma, but there are other feeding methods out there!

Pre-workout: at least an hour before exercise, with essential fatty acids for energy.

Simple Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 2 tablespoons oats
  • Oat / almond / coconut / dairy milk to desired consistency

 

Green Elixir

  • 1 handful kale
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 cup pineapple, cubed
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Splash honey & superfood powder (optional)
  • Coconut water to desired consistency

 

smoothies, health nutrition

Post-workout: within 30 minutes of a workout, with a form of carbohydrate to replenish the glycogen storage without causing a spike in insulin levels. Depending on the type of exercise, protein can be added however, protein should only be used if the workout was high intensity or strength training!

Banana Boost

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder
  • Oat / almond / coconut / dairy milk to desired consistency

 

Berry Blast

  • 1 banana
  • 1 handful raspberries
  • 1 handful blackberries
  • 1 mango
  • 1 large handful kale
  • Coconut water to desired consistency
  • (1 scoop vanilla protein powder if required)

 

smoothies, health, nutrition

These are my personal favourites, but the choices are endless. A good rule of thumb when experimenting with smoothies is 1/3 fruit, 2/3 vegetables, but it really depends on your personal preference. If I fancy something sweet, I’ll crank up the berries and save the veggies for another day. As long as you’re balanced in your approach (as with life in general), a little extra sugar occasionally won’t be the end of the world.

There are plenty of pre-made smoothie kits available now, my favourites are from Pack’d as they include a little sachet of super food powered to boost your smoothie. New smoothie company, Pure Smoothie Box, can even send you a box of ingredients straight to your door, all portioned out with recipes ready for your week ahead.

smoothies, health, nutrition

Pure Smoothie Box

So why not experiment with some smoothies next time you have the 3pm energy slump….or tell me your current favourite smoothie, and I’ll give it a try myself!

The Hypermobile Yogi – Classes

Inspired by an article on Yoga International (shared by yoga teacher Adam Husler), I’ve decided to take a moment to show how having Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS) affects me as a yogi. It’s been a long while since I shared ‘My Hypermobile Life’ with you all, and I’m going to try to not repeat myself too much, but as each year (and injury) goes by, I get a better understanding of how my complicated body works…or doesn’t as the case may be. I’m going to break my yoga experiences down into 3 posts; Asanas. Classes. Recovery.

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Don’t lock your elbow. Don’t sink into your hip. Don’t overly twist your neck.

Class Planning

Through chatting to my own clients, most people’s approach to classes and working out is; Sunday night – plan and book classes for the week, go to class, get a sweat on, go home. It may sound ridiculous, but I have to consider a whole lot more before deciding whether to go to class or not.

Firstly, is my body ok? I listen intently to my body and pay close attention to niggles, aches and pains. With JHS, I suffer with chronic pain at times, so I’m used to being in pain, what I have to pay attention to is new pain, and decipher whether that’s something simple like ‘I’ve popped my shoulder out while asleep’ – yep, that happens – or something more sinister. Saying that however, I’d probably still go to class!

yoga, yogabloggers, hypermobility

Don’t turn your elbows backwards. Don’t just drop your chest. Don’t pop your shoulders.

Secondly is what kind of class my body needs. People with JHS suffer with chronic pain, heart palpitations (I also have a heart condition, or two), low blood pressure, fatigue, anxiety, sleep problems and depression. This is due to the body producing more adrenaline to compensate for the extra elasticity in the blood vessels. If I want to go to class, I have to decide whether it’s a fast paced, dynamic practice, a hot yoga session, or a slower, deeper, more technical class. On a day where I simply want to curl up and stay in bed…I’ll book into one of my favourite teachers’ classes and make myself go, regardless of the style, and I’ll just practice cautiously. I never regret going to yoga!

Other Classes

In terms of non-yoga classes, that’s a whole other ball game! High impact classes are almost a no-go for me, and other classes such as boxing, aerial or ballet have to be considered according to what else has been happening that week. Sometimes, I simply opt for a gym session where I can tailor my workout to what I need.

yoga, yogabloggers, hypermobility

Don’t crunch your lower back. Don’t drop your neck back. Don’t pop your shoulders.

During class, other than controlling my joints during each asana, it’s essential to consider the transitions between each posture. Sometimes, if I stand up from the sofa too fast, I get that head rush feeling, imagine how intense that can get in a hot yoga room, returning from a deep backbend. Add to that the likelihood that I might have crunched down on my neck in said backbend, that’s a recipe for passing out. Slow and steady wins the race, and even in super-charged Rocket Yoga, it’s important to take an extra breath of stillness when needed.

Keeping all that in mind, my decision to go to yoga is often made the morning of the class. I’d love to pre-plan my weeks to include classes, as most often I take the same classes each week, but I can’t predict how my body will feel. Quite often in the past, I have been overambitious with my body, and have had to cancel last minute.

yoga, yogabloggers, hypermobiltiy

Breathe!

Once I’ve done class, it becomes about recovery and making sure I don’t hurt the next day. Through nutrition and taking care of myself with adequate rest, it’s time to listen to my body and think about when my next class will be. My next post will focus on A Hypermobile Yogi – The Recovery.

All Images: Will Patrick

Sleep Hack Your Way to Better Recovery*

Sponsored Post in Association with Leesa* 

We all complain about being tired from time to time, but have you ever stopped to think about how your sleep is affecting your workouts, and your recovery from those workouts? I’ve teamed up with mattress company Leesa to share with you all how vital your sleep is for your health and fitness and, more importantly, how to improve your own sleep patterns.

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During exercise, the body not only uses up its fluid and energy stores, it also breaks down muscle fibres throughout (oh that familiar DOMS pain). Refuelling and rehydrating are probably the first thing you think about post-workout, but do you think about how your body is going to recover overnight as well? It’s all well and good ensuring your body is replenished, but research suggests that sleep deprivation can decrease production of glycogen from carbohydrates. Glycogen storage is essential for energy production in the body, and if it’s not optimised, through lack of sleep, your post-workout nutrition becomes less beneficial.

Research also shows that lack of sleep increases your cortisol levels, the hormone linked to stress, meaning that during your activity, you could suffer from fatigue, low energy or irritability. Sleep deprivation in the long-term can also attribute to such complaints as depression, anger, confusion and mood swings.

So the solution is to get a great night’s sleep of course!! Around 8 hours is best, but talking from experience of crippling insomnia throughout my late teens and early twenties (and even sometimes now too), I know it’s not always as simple as that. I’ve learnt some techniques in my time to help me get to sleep, so I’m going to share with you my favourite sleep hacks, to help you get the best night’s sleep!

Make Your Room Your Sanctuary

Your room, and your bed, should be the most comforting place in your house. It needs to be a welcoming place where you feel calm and safe. Depending on your preference, you can go for crisp white, opulent deep shades, or like me, soft muted tones and pretty lighting. I try to keep my bedroom nice and tidy, I make my bed every morning (come on, simply pulling the covers over and straightening the sides takes literally 10 seconds) and change the bedding every week. Then, at night, I look forward to snuggling up in my little sanctuary of peace and tranquility.

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Plan Your Evening

If you need to go to sleep at 11pm in order to get a solid 8 hours of shut-eye, then getting off the sofa and beginning your bed-time rituals at 10.50pm isn’t going to work. You’ve got to do the washing up, tidy away any mess from the day, get your bags ready for the next morning, remove your make-up, wash your hair maybe…all this means you won’t get near your bed until 11.30pm or later. Plan these things earlier in the evening, and make getting into your cosy bed at 11pm on the dot your priority.

Unplug

Back when my insomnia was at its worst, I had a TV, DVD player, laptop, and phone all in my room. I would typically get into bed and finish some uni work, chat on MSN, check myspace (yes, I’m that old) and watch TV for another hour before actually trying to sleep. It’s no wonder that I would be awake until the early hours with my mind buzzing. I get that it’s not easy in a house share where you sometimes need to escape to your own room to watch your cheesy rom-com in peace, but these days the only thing that enters my bedroom is my phone. I use it as my alarm, but I do get annoyed with myself when I give it one last check before I turn my light off. Remove all those distractions, and ban yourself from checking your work emails/facebook/instagram after a certain time in the evening if you’re likely to over-think what you’ve seen.

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Write It All Down

If what’s keeping you awake is the endless train of thoughts that scurry through your mind, then try writing them all down. A diary, bullet journal, thought book, call it what you will, but writing down all those nagging thoughts, be they worrying, happy, silly or mundane, might just help to switch off your brain a little.

Stretch It Out

Now, I’m not suggesting throwing yourself into an hour-long yoga session just before bed, but some gentle stretches can be useful to unwind and prepare your body, and mind, for sleep. Try laying down with your legs up the wall, taking some gentle twists or forward folds before bed. You can even simply sit and take 10 deep breaths in bed before settling down. Yogic breathing can be helpful as the exhalation stimulates the nervous system to release and certain poses, particularly those with your head below your heart, can also help to relieve tension and relax.

Leesa Mattress, sleep hacks, sleep, wellness Leesa Mattress, sleep hacks, sleep, wellness Leesa Mattress, sleep hacks, sleep, wellness Leesa Mattress, sleep hacks, sleep, wellness

With all these sleep hacks in place, it’s also important that you’re comfortable in bed! Having the right mattress can make or break your sleep. I’ve been testing out Leesa’s mattress for the last month or two and I love it. It’s supportive and firm, but equally soft and  luxurious. With 5cm of cooling Avena foam on top of 5cm memory foam, it holds the body’s contours and relieves pressure without feeling too hard to sleep on. All of this on top of 15cm of durable core foam, I definitely feel a bit like the Princess and the Pea (without the actual pea of course) atop all this bedding! A good mattress definitely worth the investment. What’s great is that, with Leesa, you can try the mattress for 100 days, and if it isn’t working out, they will arrange for the mattress to be collected and donated to a charitable donation, offering you a full refund.

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Saying that though, I won’t be returning mine! You can grab yourselves a cheeky £50 discount on a Leesa mattress of your own using my link!

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This is a sponsored post in association with Leesa. All views my own, please see Disclaimer for more information.

Sources:

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/sleep-athletic-performance-and-recovery

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4008810/