January 18, 2018 2 min read

Athletes need extra sleep to help their bodies recover from the stresses of training so they can continue to perform at their best. REM sleep which provides energy to the brain and body is particularly important for enabling this recovery.

For professional athletes, better performance often translates into making more money. Therefore, athletes should definitely consider how the quality and amount of sleep they get might be affecting their performance.  

Some top athletes are in fact taking sleeping seriously. For example, LeBron James and Roger Federer, both world-renowned athletes, are known to sleep ten to 12 hours per day. Tennis star, Serena Williams, reports going to bed by 7 p.m. to get adequate sleep.

Considering most people function best getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, athletes need at least an extra hour if not more. If it’s not possible to get extra sleep during the night, fitting a nap in during the day can offer significant health benefits. Here are the top reasons why sleep makes you a better athlete.

  1. Helps the Body Replenish Energy Stores. Not getting enough sleep can decrease the production of carbohydrates and glycogen, the fuel the body stores for energy use during exercise. Depleted energy stores lead to a lower energy output, a shorter time to reach fatigue, poor concentration during physical activity, and a slower recovery time.
  2.  Supports Good Judgement and Learning Skills. Research shows that memory function, focusing ability, motivation, and learning are each impaired by getting inadequate sleep. The brain relies on sleep to consolidate memory and process new knowledge.
  3. Improves Reaction Times. Athletes typically need to react fast in their sport and can’t afford to have slow reactivity due to poor sleep. Studies show that being mildly tired due to a lack of sleep can impair reaction times just as much as or more than being legally intoxicated, and missing one night of sleep can impede reaction times by over 300%.
  4. Enhances Skill Accuracy. Research studies involving basketball players, weightlifters, swimmers, tennis players, and other athletes all confirm that adequate sleep is necessary for achieving optimal athletic performance. These studies focused on extending the hours of sleep athletes normally receive (up to 10 hours in total). They concluded that several measures of sports performance such as accuracy and reaction times dramatically improved after more extended sleep periods.
  5. Lengthens Sports Careers. Sleep deprivation not only leaves the body prone to sustaining injuries and increases the time it takes to heal, but it also reduces the longevity of athletes’ careers. One study involving major league baseball players showed that there is a direct relationship between fatigue and the length of playing career. Essentially, being chronically tired reduces sports performance thus leading to a shorter playing career.  

Considering the amount of research devoted to studying sleep’s effects on athletic performance and the results that prove how valuable sleep is for peak performance, all athletes should consider getting good sleep a priority. Sleep is required for athletes to develop skills, stay injury-free, perform their best, and stay active in their sports careers for longer.

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