Stop Reading This...Go To Sleep!
Updated: Mar 18, 2021
Sleep has been a popular topic in the world of sports and performance, and rightfully so. When it comes to performance, sleep deprivation may have adverse effects on many aspects of performance – the physical, mental, and emotional. Therefore, many athletes have begun to take their sleep hygiene as seriously as their on- and off-field training, nutrition, and mental performance.
Many studies have been published on the impact of poor sleep on performance and injury rates. It has been shown that young athletes who chronically sleep less than 8 hours per night are more likely to experience injuries (1,3).
Additionally, it is known that recovery happens when we are asleep (4). No matter what we do in the gym, court, or track, our sleep (or lack thereof) is going to be a determining factor in the efficacy of those adaptations. The general guideline suggests that we get 8 hours of sleep a night. However, athletes may require up to 10 hours of sleep in order for them to perform at their highest levels, consistently (4).
So, if it is so important let’s just sleep more, right? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. There are many reasons why sleep is such a hard commodity to come by, especially with athletes. A primary example challenge being late-night games followed by early classes for high-school and college athletes. Professional team sports like baseball, often have a Saturday night game followed by a Sunday day game, then concluding with a travel day.
Not all hours of “sleep” are created equal. Even when we have the time to get 8+ hours of sleep, the quality of sleep may not be adequate. Stress, nutrition, environment, or technology all play a major role in our ability to get quality sleep.
Coming down after games can be difficult for some athletes making it hard to fall asleep quickly. Some athletes take energy supplements (pre-workout, caffeine, energy chews, etc.) before night games starting at 7 pm. Many athletes are on their phones, tablets, or playing video games all night. All of these have a considerable impact on sleep quality.
Sometimes the hours just aren’t there. We may only be able to get four, five, six hours of sleep for a given night. So, what are the things we can do to promote a quality night’s sleep? The following is a quick checklist athletes can reference for sleep enhancing strategies.
Lebron James, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, and Maria Sharapova have all said they sleep 10+ hours each night, some even averaging 12 hours of sleep (4). These are some of the most elite athletes, dealing with some of the highest-pressure situations, grueling schedules, and physically demanding jobs. It would be foolish to think that if they have identified the importance of sleep than we shouldn’t listen.
That being said, not all of us of the resources that the above-mentioned athletes have and that can make it difficult. However, that does not mean we should not strive to improve our sleep hygiene and begin to see the tremendous effect sleep can have not only on our performance, but quality of life as well.
1. Burke et al. (2019). Chronic Lack of Sleep is Associated with Increased Sports Injury in Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
2. Marshall G., & Turner, A. N. (2016). The Importance of Sleep for Athletic Performance.
3. Rosen et al. (2017). Too Little Sleep and an Unhealthy Diet Could Increase the Risk of Sustaining A New Injury in Adolescent Elite Athletes.
4. West, A (2018). Sleep – A Game Changer in the Athletic World?