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Whether you’re an aspiring marathoner, a kickboxing junkie, or the reigning golf champion at your country club, you’re an athlete – through and through. Sport is a big part of your life, and you strive for your best performance.
Ask any athlete, in any sport, what it takes to excel, and you’ll likely hear weightlifting, conditioning and practice. Some may say instruction, nutrition or even persistence. There probably won’t be as many who mention sleep.
While sleep is essential for everyone, athletes absolutely must have quality sleep to meet the physical and mental demands of their sport. From the recreational level all the way to the big leagues, anyone looking to score big and perform at the top of their game needs to make sleep a part of their regimen. So, let’s dive a little deeper into the relationship between sleep and athletes.
Now that we’ve warmed up, we’re ready to tackle some interesting research studies. As clinical researchers continue to study sleep and athletic performance, there are a growing number of findings that directly correlate sleep with athletic performance. Consider these research findings published in Sports Medicine journal:
Off the court and away from the gym, sleep also plays a critical role in helping athletes build mental strength and physically recover from training and competitive events.
According to the London Sports Institute, hormones secreted during sleep help physiologically restore an athlete’s body. Melatonin activates other enzymes that help to reduce inflammation, while other hormones released during deep sleep work to repair muscle, build bone and oxidize fats.
Furthermore, the United States Olympic Committee published a 2016 article that mentions how our brains use sleep to download information to our memory centers and permanently forge new connections between neurons. Sleep works to cement things like proper technique, complex team plays and competitive strategies learned during prior training sessions. In other words, your brain is still in the game even when you’re asleep.
While intense training is most often the catalyst for sports-related injuries, lack of sleep appears to be a factor as well.
In a 2014 study appearing in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics, one predictor of injury was hours of sleep per night. Adolescent athletes who slept less than eight hours a night on average were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared with those sleeping more.
So, sleep may help athletes avoid the physical hiccups that can derail a training regimen or keep them out of competition.
It’s clear that a good night’s rest can give athletes a physical and psychological advantage. But they can suffer from the same sleep disorders as everyone else. Beyond the typical snoring and insomnia, athletes also must overcome additional factors that complicate sleep, including training schedules, rigorous competitions and travel.
As an example, a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that 62% of German athletes had problems sleeping the night prior to a competition. Self-reported reasons for the restlessness included thinking about the event, nervousness and unfamiliarity with their sleep surroundings due to travel.
And it’s not just needing to schedule enough time for sleep; it’s about finding a way to get more restorative sleep too.
In 2012, Olympic athletes from Great Britain wore sleep watches to measure the amount and quality of sleep. Results showed athletes spent an average of 8.5 hours in bed and slept seven hours for an 81% sleep efficiency rating. Nonathlete peers spent 30 fewer minutes in bed, but got 15 more minutes of sleep for an 89% sleep efficiency rating.
Just as you train to get better at your sport, you can train to improve your sleep. The Better Sleep Council has great information and resources to get you started.
Establishing regular routines, practicing good sleep hygiene and optimizing your sleep environment will go a long way to helping you stay strong and healthy so you can excel at your favorite physical activities.
Some tips of particular interest to athletes include:
Finally, buying a new mattress to match your sleep preferences can go a long way to improving your sleep. Take our Better Bed Quizzz so you can shop for one with confidence.Follow our tips for #bettersleep so you can slam-dunk your way into your next sports event. #BSCSleepTips @BetterSleepOrg
This blog provides general information about sleep and sleep products. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified heath care professional. This blog should not be construed as medical advice or used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care professional. This blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health or the health of others. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or elsewhere on bettersleep.org. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.