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Sleep Science

You snooze, you win? How many times have you heard “get a good night’s sleep” before a competition?

While it may seem like all athletes do is train, this is not true. A study that was preformed on over 3,000 athletes determined that practice only accounts for 18% of performance. Wondering what the other 82% of performance consists of, and what athletes do to prepare for high-level competitions? For one thing, they sleep. Even though most people understand how important sleep is, sleep is typically the aspect of training that is overlooked or pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

Stanford University has published different studies emphasizing, “sleep is an important factor in peak athletic performance, athletes may be able to optimize training and competition outcomes by identifying strategies to maximize the benefits of sleep.” As doctors and researchers continue to examine how adequate sleep positively affects athletes’ performance, the results are all leading to more sleep equals better performance for all types of athletes.

In 2009 the women’s tennis team at Stanford University was followed for five weeks as part of a study on the affects that sleep has on performance. The tennis team attempted to get ten hours of sleep a night during these five weeks. The improvements that the athletes who successfully increased the amount of sleep they got every night included better sprint times, and more accurate shots. Another study published that, extra sleep over a period of several weeks improved performance, mood, and alertness for the men’s basketball team as well as the men and women’s swim teams at Stanford. Some of the measurable results that this study revealed was that the athletes were setting new personal bests, and broke national and world records. Since these studies have been published the coaches at Stanford have made changes to their practice and travel schedules to accommodate the need for more sleep.

Does Sleep Really Improve Sports Performance?

A simple answer is yes. Sleep allows the body to heal, research has shown that the growth hormone (GH) is released when someone falls into a deep sleep. This is important because GH helps stimulate muscle growth and repair, bone building, fat burning, and helps with the over all recovery process for athletes. In addition to being a huge part of the recovery process, sleep is necessary to successfully learn new skills, and increase reaction time. When someone suffers from sleep deprivation the body does not release as much GH there for resulting in a longer recovery period, and the person not gaining the full benefit of this hormone. Studies that focused on sleep deprivation concluded that even as little as 20 hours of sleep deprivation can negatively impact sports performance, specifically in power and skill sports.

So how much sleep do I actually need? Is there a plan that I should follow in training? Is this plan different for the week of my event? What issues could a sleepless night the night before an event cause?

Let the staff at Athletic Edge answer all these questions and any other questions you have about sleep.