By: Sara Rau, DPT
When athletes think about ways to improve their athletic performance, they usually think of training, diet and maybe even supplements. But many don’t realize that sleep is just as important to their performance. It is recommended that athletes get at least 1 hour of extra sleep than what is recommended of their non-athlete peers. This can be achieved by going to bed earlier or even taking a nap.
Studies have shown that adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep/night to reach their peak performance. However, more sleep is essential for cognitive and physical development of children. School-aged children ages 6-13 years old require 9-11 hours and teens require 8-10 hours of sleep per night. This is because the human growth hormone is only secreted during sleep. This hormone repairs the body as well as is a key factor for growth and development both cognitively and physically.
Some studies have looked specifically at the effect of sleep on athletic performance. They found that an increase in sleep improved speed, reaction time, accuracy of skills, mood, vigor and decreased fatigue. On the flip side, a lack of sleep can cause slower reaction time, mood disturbances and fatigue.
So in order to help maximize your athletic performance, try these tips:
- Try to increase your sleep time either with going to bed earlier or taking a nap in the afternoon. Be careful not to take a nap that is too long or too close to bed time to affect your night-time sleep.
- Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule during the week and keep as close to the same schedule as possible during the weekend.
- Get yourself in the habit of doing the same routine before you go to bed. This will teach your body that it’s bedtime and get ready to sleep.
- Avoid caffeine later in the day to avoid affecting your sleep at night.
- Don’t eat, drink or exercise within a few hours of going to bed. Avoid procrastination and try to finish your homework early to give yourself time to rest your brain before going to sleep. Try to do calm, quiet activities before bed.
- Keep a sleep journal or to-do list near your bed. Write down things that are on your mind so that you will have a greater ability to stop worrying or stressing to enable sleep.
Blumert PA, Crum AJ, Ernsting M, Volek JS, Hollander DB, Haff EE, Haff GG. The acute effects of twenty-four hours of sleep loss on the performance of national-caliber male collegiate weightlifters. J Strength & Cond Res. 2007;21(4):1146-1154
Mah CD, Mah KE, Kezirian EJ, Dement WC. The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. SLEEP. 2011;34(7):943-950.
Scott JPR, McNaughton LR, Polman RCJ. Effects of sleep deprivation and exercise on cognitive, motor performance and mood. Physiology & Behavior. 2006;87:396-408.