“Sleep is extremely important to me - I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.” -Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt, the fastest human alive, sleeps 10 hours per day. And he’s in good company. Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Steve Nash also get 10 hours of sleep per day. Lebron James and Roger Federer sleep for 12 hours a day. TWELVE HOURS A DAY. The average American sleeps 6.8 hours per day, with 40% of the US population sleeping less than 7 hours per day.
Over the past few years, studies have concluded that more sleep leads to better performance. In 2008, the American Academy of Sleep Studies conducted a study, extending Stanford’s men and women’s swim teams sleep duration to 10 hours per day for 6-7 weeks. After the extended sleep period they found athletes to:
improve 15meter sprint time by .51seconds
react .15seconds faster off the blocks
improve turn time by .10seconds
increased kick strokes by 5 kicks
In addition, swimmers reported less daytime fatigue and improvements in mood.
Another study, conducted in 2011 looked at the sleep habits of Stanford University Men’s Varsity basketball team. After increasing their sleep duration to 10 hours for 5-7 weeks, the team was able to improve their free-throw percentage by 9% and three point field goal percentage by 9.2%. Players also demonstrated faster sprint times and improved reaction times.
Studies have also explored the effects of lack of sleep on performance. A 2014 article published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics showed a direct correlation between decreased sleep time and increased injury in adolescent athletes. Athletes that slept less than 8 hours per night were 1.7x more likely to suffer an injury. This percentage increased by 1.4x with each advancing grade level. Lack of sleep slows reaction times, coordination and overall motor performance.
There are only so many hours in a day! How can an athlete focus on training, hydration, nutrition and now be expected to sleep more? Here are some tips to help:
Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle during your training periods.
Train and practice during the time of day which you plan on competing.
Take a 20-30minute pre-game nap
Don’t focus on your phone, tablet or computer in the time leading up to sleep
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual
Keep your bedroom cool, between 60-67degrees
Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, nicotine or alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime
Don’t stress about sleep
What are you waiting for? Get to bed!
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