Can Sleep Improve Your Performance?
Sleep is simply not valued in our 24/7 society. We treat it as a luxury and it’s a necessity. If you sleep longer and better, you can be a better athlete overnight
Dr. James B. Maas
The top athletes and players in the world all spend countless hours on the training field, practicing set-plays, improving techniques, increasing aerobic performance, repeating patterns of play, while also increasing strength in the gym and recovering from injuries at the physiotherapist. Yet one of the most vital elements of an athlete’s routine is usually the most underestimated and overlooked aspect….sleep.
Sleep can benefit an athlete in so many ways and have an effect on many different areas of performance. In essence, the most effortless activity an athlete can partake in, can be one of the most beneficial. Despite this, most studies have found that athletes fail to obtain the recommended amount of sleep and this can impact their health and performance. Insufficient sleep and/or poor sleep quality can cause issues which affect physical and academic performance, cognitive function, recovery from training and injury and your mental and cardiometabolic health.
Stanford University were one of the pioneering institutions to investigate this fact – They found that those athletes who successfully attempted to get 10 hours of sleep per night over a period of 5 weeks had better sprint times, more accurate shooting, improved mood and alertness across a number of team and individual sports. They also found that looking at the flip side of this, a lack of sleep or “sleep debt” as it is known can negatively affect performance by reducing cognitive function, mood and reaction time.
Collegiate Athletes and Sleep
The busy life of the student athlete is very often not compatible with the time requirements of restorative sleep. Travel, academic and athletic timetables, team meetings, assignments and exams can all affect consistency in optimal sleep hygiene for the student athlete.
In Wake up call for collegiate athlete sleep: narrative review and consensus recommendations an initial 16 recommendations were made by the group involved in this research, but after consideration and consensus on their feasibility in the college environment the following 5 recommendations were made:-
Given the fact that sleep provides a number of both psychologically and physiologically important functions that facilitate the recovery process, a greater understanding of strategies to improve sleep is central to future research in elite athletes.
Getting enough sleep just doesn’t happen overnight. If you have bad habits regarding sleep hygiene you need to work on them and commit to change. Some recommendations to improve your sleep include:-
- Avoid stimulants at least 6 hours before bed time
- Switch off devices
- Avoid obsessive clock watching
- Avoid excessive food and liquid late at night
- Use beds for sleep – if you can’t sleep get out of bed for a while
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Avoid sleep naps if you are having trouble falling asleep at night
- Seek out bright light in the morning but avoid in the evening
Sleep is often overlooked as a factor that can affect an athletes’ performance and recovery despite being critical for this process. The overriding message is that sleep is an important priority and more education is recommended for both coaches and athletes to help raise awareness and take steps to promote athlete well-being and performance through sleep. Dr Charles Czeisler, the Director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, sums up its importance with this great quote
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
Metrifit promotes authentic conversations and learning regarding sleep, stress, nutrition and other key factors that can prove immeasurable to both coaches and athletes. In the modern sporting world, the gap between winning and losing can come down to fractions of seconds, millimeters, or squeezing out that last ounce of energy. Data on all aspects of an athlete’s preparation is of significant value. If a coach can keep track of how an athlete is reacting to training, how they are sleeping, how they are eating and what their mood or stress levels are, they can make decisions based on that information that might just give them the edge they need. Metrifit’s new athlete lifestyle profiling product takes up very little time for busy athletes (about 5 minutes each month) but provides you with actionable insight to help improve your team’s performance and more importantly highlights the key lifestyle stressors that are affecting the health and well-being of your athletes.
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Do Athletes Need Extra Sleep? by Elizabeth Quinn
Growth hormone secretion during sleep by Y. Takahashi, D. M. Kipnis, and W. H. Daughaday
Wake up call for collegiate athlete sleep: narrative review and consensus recommendations from the NCAA Interassociation Task Force on Sleep and Wellness