Sleep is important for every human being, but it’s even more crucial for athletes. Whether you’re running a marathon or training heavy in the gym, a sufficient amount of sound sleep is necessary for proper recovery and growth. Sleep doesn’t only accelerate muscle recovery, it also helps athletes focus and deliver their best performance.
Sleep and Athletic Performance
Research shows that sleep influences an athlete’s performance. Recently, Stanford University conducted a study on their basketball team by adding an average of 2 hours of sleep every night. After a few months, the players increased their speed by around 5% and free throw accuracy by 9%. Also, they noticed a significant improvement in their mental health. Brain plasticity theories say sleep helps the brain form new connections based on that whole day’s waking experiences. Therefore, the more quality sleep you have, the more you will benefit from your training and hard work.
Importance of Sleep for Improving Athletic Performance
The importance of sleep for athletic performance cannot be overstated. Many people tend to take sleep for granted, despite the fact that as humans we spend almost one-third of our lives sleeping. Although our body is resting while we sleep, internal functions like growth, repair, and energy conservation take the lead to help us recover and regenerate.
Some significant benefits of sleep for athletic performance include:
- Improves accuracy and speed
- Allows the heart to rest and tissue to repair
- Helps reduce injuries
- Improves concentration and productivity
- Improves immune function and helps fight off infections
- Maintains bone health and repairs muscles
- Helps reduce stress and anxiety and improves mood
How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Athletic Performance?
Lack of sleep affects athletic performance as much as an unhealthy diet or improper training. Sleep deprivation reduces the ability of an athlete to think clearly and make wise decisions. Additionally, it has been linked with depression and other medical conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke.
Here are some negative effects of sleep deprivation on athlete health:
- Quicker exhaustion while training or playing
- Decreases reaction time
- Negatively affects executive functions and decision-making abilities
- Increases the risk of injury
- Decreases glucose intolerance, resulting in a high risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
- Increases ghrelin (hunger-stimulating hormone) and decreases letting (hunger-suppressing hormone)
- Increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which gradually affects sleep quality and starts a sleepless cycle in the long run.
- Reduces speed and accuracy
While sleep loss affects hormones, it also decreases the cognitive functions and performance of athletes. World-class athletes like Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, and LeBron James said they need 10-12 hours sleep at night to perform at their highest level.
Essential Tips to Help Athletes Sleep Better
Getting a good night’s sleep should be a priority for any athlete who wants to succeed. Many other factors like early morning practice, travel for away games, late-night meetings, and even the stress of competing can get in the way; but prioritization is key.
Over the last few decades, sleep quantity and quality have both declined among Americans, which is considered one of the key reasons for health issues and performance detrition of athletes. So, make the most of your sleep by following these sleep hygiene tips and maximize your sleep quality:
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet to create an ideal sleeping environment
- Avoid taking stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol at least 3-4 hours before bed.
- Before going to sleep, consume foods that help achieve a good night’s sleep, such as: quality protein, warm milk, nuts and seeds, and Greek yogurt.
- Get on a regular sleep schedule and stick with it by going to bed and getting up every day at the same time.
- Avoid taking sleep medications or supplements, unless prescribed by a doctor.
- Stay away from any electronic devices including TVs, smartphones, and computers before bedtime
- Minimize nap time during the day.
- Practice visualization and relaxation techniques to fall asleep faster.
Sleep can either increase or decrease your athletic performance. When you get quality sleep at night, you can perform better the next day. If not, you’ll likely struggle to meet your own standards. Therefore, quality sleep should be a part of every athlete’s preparation along with proper nutrition, physical training, and muscle recovery. To achieve the most effective and easy muscle recovery, many athletes use Marc Pro.