Athlete Intelligence Blog

How Sleep Can Affect Athletic Performance

11/7/17 7:28 AM / by Athlete Intelligence

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Did you know that some of the world’s best athletes get over ten hours of sleep a night?

If you want to become a high performing athlete or even just a more productive person in life, then sleep needs to be one of the most important things to focus on. Research shows that a lack of sleep hinders performance not only in daily life but also plays an enormous role in athletic performance.

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how sleep affects athletic performance

Lack of sleep will decrease your energy levels by reducing your testosterone levels, which enhances physical strength in both men and women and lower your glycogen storage, which is your body’s way of storing energy. It also impairs your muscle memory and lowers your HGH hormone levels that help restore, repair and rebuild your muscle tissue.

Sleep can also affect your reaction time and accuracy. According to a Sandford Report sleep can impact your reaction time and much as alcohol. Studies of college, elite, and professional athletes found that reaction tasks are particularly sensitive to sleep deprivation from findings that the frontal lobe is highly responsive to sleep loss. 

As you see sleep deprivation results in many negative reactions, both physical and mental. This, in turn will increase the risk of injuries for athletes. A University of California study concluded that injury rates in youth athletes increased during games that followed a night of sleep fewer than 6 hours. Getting less than 8 hours of sleep increases the chance of injury by 170%! Over time, game-earned injuries, health issues, and the inability to fully recover can wear on an athlete and contribute to more time spent on the sidelines.

how much sleep do you need?

Sleep experts recommend seven to nine hours of daily sleep for adults, and nine to ten hours for adolescents and teens. You can estimate your own needs by experimenting over a few weeks. If you fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed and wake up without an alarm, you are probably getting the right amount of sleep. If you fall asleep immediately upon hitting the pillow and always need an alarm to wake up, you are probably sleep deprived.

You can also track your sleep patterns through the innovations in wearable technology. Sleep tracking technology can yield a lot of answers to questions such as: How many hours do I sleep each night? How long does it take for me to fall asleep? Do I sleep peacefully or am I a restless sleeper? Am I getting enough deep sleep, light sleep or REM? This information is compelling on its own, but if you’re serious about improving your health and well-being it can be invaluable when acted upon.

The good news for most recreational athletes is that just one sleepless night is not necessarily associated with any negative effects on performance. So, don't worry if you toss and turn the night before a big competition. One sleepless night is unlikely to hurt your performance.

What are some good sleep habits?

  • Avoid electrical screens for an hour before bed. The blue light exposure reduces melatonin release which causes an increase time to fall asleep

  • Sleep in a quiet and dark room to ensure comfort. You may want to consider ear plugs or blackout curtains if you are particularly sensitive

  • Avoid stimulating activity before bed. Have a pre-bed routine that gives you the opportunity to wind down after your day

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol as it may increase the time it takes you to fall asleep

  • Avoid large meals and excessive fluid before bedtime

  • Take daily naps if you can’t get enough sleep each night

  • Have a regular sleep and wake time to develop a strong circadian rhythm

  • Control your stress and anxiety through yoga, meditation or journal writing

 

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Topics: Tips, Research, Coachable Moments, Athlete-Centered Coaching, Athlete Performance