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April 21, 2021 2 min read

As important as training is the amount of rest and sleep an athlete gets! A good night of sleep enhances an athlete’s performance in many ways. Here, we discuss both the negative effects of sleep deprivation and the positive effects of sleep extension in athletes based on recent research studies.

The Detrimental Effects of Sleep Deprivation

While most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night, athletes may need more because of the intensive exercise regimen they’re into. Inadequate sleep may be associated with negative health issues, which include:

  • Physical Effects:reduced running performance, muscle glycogen concentration, submaximal strength, isokinetic peak torque, minute ventilation, distance covered, sprint times, tennis serve accuracy, soccer kicking skills, and time to exhaustion.
  • Cognitive Effects: decreased psychomotor functions, mood, and vigor; increased reaction time and confusion, impaired judgment and decision-making strategies; impaired concentration, memory retention, and learning.
  • Metabolic Effects:increased risk for obesity and diabetes,impaired growth hormone, and cortisol secretion.
  • Others:impaired immune system, delayed muscle recovery and repair from damage, autonomic nervous system imbalance, and altered pain perception.

The Beneficial Effects of Sleep Extension

Having an adequate amount of sleep offers a number of beneficial outcomes. People who are sleep deprived show improvements when given enough time to rest and sleep. Similarly, athletes who sleep adequately before competition are more likely to improve in terms of peak performance. Restoration of sleeping patterns and sleep extension in athletes has shown:

  • Improvement in sprint times
  • Tennis serve accuracy
  • Swimming turn and kick stroke efficiency and swim sprint
  • Basketball shooting accuracy and endurance
  • Improved cognitive function, in terms of reaction times, psychomotor vigilance tasks, alertness, vigor, and mood
  • Decreased fatigue and sleepiness
  • Sleep hygiene and sleep optimization education program improve sleep time and sleep efficiency

The Takeaway

Based on the available research studies, athletes need two hours more of sleep, with a total of 9-hour sleep for elite athletes. Sleep is an essential element for overall peak performance, both physically and mentally. Especially for elite athletes, sleep should be a top priority and as important as training and nutrition.