Basketball study highlights the importance of sleep

Metrifit Athlete Monitoring Software

Basketball player

Asking athletes to play on minimal sleep is the same as asking them to “play with one hand tied behind their back” … It’s making them do something we know degrades their reaction time, their ability to take in their training, to get the most benefit out of it. They spend all this time practicing but never get to sleep

Dr Charles Cseisler, the director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard

Athletes and coaches across the globe are constantly searching for techniques that will improve performance and increase chances of success. Many go to great lengths and expense to raise the levels by even the smallest of percentages. But what if there was a technique that came naturally to all that would bring about improvements? Surely everybody would be using it to its full advantage. Sadly that is not the case as the technique in question – sleep – is something that is not fully utilized by all athletes. Perhaps the reason for this is that one of the difficulties in promoting the area of sleep is that it is not easy to quantify. Unlike training programs that help boost speed, endurance or build muscle, the benefits of sleep have generally been hard to measure. The importance of monitoring sleep is a topic we have looked at previously in Monitoring Sleep is invaluable for a Coach. This blog concentrates on a study carried out that illustrates how sleep can boost performance -in this case that of a collegiate basketball team.

Benefits of sleep

The vital role played by sleep is summed up in Elite Sports & Performance, Sleep Science and Technology, which highlights the five most important benefits it brings:-

  • Improved reaction times
  • Reduced injury rates, improved overall health
  • Longer playing careers
  • Better accuracy, faster sprint times
  • Fewer mental errors

Coaches and athletes will spend endless hours following programs in pursuit of everything on this list, so to be able address them all through improving sleep patterns seems like a no-brainer for all involved. Having established the importance of sleep, the natural next step is of course to monitor an athlete’s pattern to ensure they gain the maximum benefit possible.

How sleep improved athletic performance

Studies highlighting benefits of sleep have been important to coaches and athletes in realizing its value, and a hugely significant practical example is provided in The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players carried out in Stanford University by Cheri Mah, Kenneth Mah, Eric Kezirian and William Dement. The study of the Stanford University’s male basketball team showed improved performances in terms of speed and accuracy with a increase of sleep for the players. The researchers had players follow a normal routine of six to nine hours sleep for two to four weeks, and for the next five to seven weeks, increase their sleep to ten hours. The findings revealed that sprint times were reduced from 16.2 seconds to 15.5 seconds, while their shooting accuracy improved by 9% and in the same time fatigue levels decreased. Crucially, this evidence was backed up by improved performances during competitive games.

Results point to need for monitoring

The authors note that

These improvements following sleep extension suggest that peak performance can only occur when an athlete’s overall sleep and sleep habits are optimal

and as a result of this they suggest that it is vital that sleep should be monitored in order to gain maximum benefit.

This study reveals an athlete’s inability to accurately assess how much sleep one actually obtains each night, thus leading to a misperception regarding the duration of sleep that constitutes adequate nightly sleep time. As additional knowledge further illuminates the relationship between sleep and athletic performance, it is likely that optimal sleep habits and obtaining adequate sleep will play an important role in peak performance in all levels of sports

Monitoring with Metrifit

As with most things involving training and studying, the idea of ‘prevention is better than cure’ is important and being able to deal with sleep deprivation before it becomes a major factor would be a great benefit to students coaches, tutors and parents. Part of our daily questionnaire in Metrifit asks athletes about their sleep quality and their sleep duration with further information sought when sleep is not optimal. It is important to have insight on both of these as optimum sleep duration can vary between individuals. What we look for is a change / deviation from normal sleep patterns and also co-relation between sleep and other important factors such as mood, health, energy levels and stress. Keeping track of these key factors and how they influence each other is a core part of athlete monitoring within Metrifit.




The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players by Cheri D. Mah, Kenneth E. Mah, Eric J. Kezirian, and William C. Dement

5 areas sleep has the greatest impact on athletic performance by Fatigue Science

The Doctor Who Coaches Athletes on Sleep by Danielle Elliot

Snooze you win? It’s true for achieving hoop dreams, says study by Mihelle Brandt

Monitoring Sleep is invaluable for a Coach | Metrifit

The benefits of sleep for elite athletes | Metrifit