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Sleep & Athletic Performance: 5 Reasons to Get Your Rest

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

Athletes have a lot on their mind: diet, weight routines, drills, speed, endurance, agility, hydration, mental focus, and so much more. But sleep probably isn’t on the top of your list. Study after study, however, indicates that sleep may have a bigger impact on your athletic performance than you might expect.

We already know that sleep can affect happiness, well-being, focus, the immune system, and other areas of life. For athletes, a good night’s rest (or the lack of it) can have even further reaching consequences.

So, how much sleep do you need? Most adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If you’re an athlete in training, you may require more sleep. Many trainers recommend an additional hour of sleep for training athletes (eight to 10 hours), so that the body has time to fully recover from workout routines.

5 Reasons to Get the Sleep You Need

Here are five reasons to prioritize sleep (via the Fatigue Science blog):

  1. Better reaction times. Every second counts when you’re on the competitive field. Lack of sleep can slow your reaction time significantly. Researchers found, for example, that “being awake for 22 hours straight can slow your reaction time more than four drinks can.”
  2. Lower risk of injury. Well-rested athletes are statistically proven to have lower rates of injury.
  3. Longer careers. Researchers at Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, VA found a linear relationship between fatigue and shortened careers in professional athletes.
  4. Speed and accuracy. A study of the Stanford men’s basketball team found that increasing the players’ sleep time to 10 hours improved shooting accuracy and sprint times.
  5. Fewer mental errors. Sleep loss leads to errors in judgment, both on and off the field. A study of MLB players found ‘plate discipline’ decreased throughout the season–a consequence of fatigue.

Learn More About Getting the Sleep You Need

To learn more about getting the sleep you need as an athlete, schedule your appointment with a Houston sports medicine physician at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics. Call (713) 756-5546, or schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.