Being athletes, we pour everything we have into our training. We eat and drink right (or at least try to), and when it comes to our workouts, we put in the hours, working to improve our health and fitness, driven by the same competitive mindset that brought us to sport in the first place.
Yet when it comes to sleep, we don’t often do as well. A study published in the Journal of SportsSciences found that one in four professional athletes suffered from significant sleep problems,¹ while 10% of the general population report ongoing insomnia (and 25% of people say they don’t get enough sleep).² The fact is, we live in a sleep deprived world. While it may not seem as challenging as a big workout, quality sleep can make all the difference when it comes to performance.
The good news is small adjustments can be made to resolve sleep deprivation. Some of these include using melatonin to help keep your body on a healthy schedule, avoiding screen time before bedtime, staying on a consistent schedule and limiting caffeine intake.
“If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it. Sleep does all of those things.”— Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, Dallas Mavericks
When we sleep, our body repairs itself. For athletes, this restoration helps heal tired muscles, restore hormonal balance, and ultimately improve performance. Without quality sleep, we can’t train as hard, think as fast or recover like we should.³ And to add insult to injury (literally in some cases), in addition to underperforming, sleep deprivation often results in overeating.⁴
The following are just some areas sleep affects athletes:
Often considered a luxury in our busy society, sleep may seem like the most basic of tasks, but its impact is far-reaching, particularly for athletes seeking optimal performance. Whether we’re at the top of our athletic game - or in it for our personal goals, sleep helps us put our best foot forward and achieve our best results, in life and in sport.
¹ Sleep Disorders More Common In Professional Athletes, But Simple Treatment Can Help Them Rest Up And Sleep Better
Medical Daily (2016)
² Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015)
³ 5 areas sleep has the greatest impact on athletic performance
Fatigue Science (2015)
⁴ Study Explains Why Lack of Sleep Gives You the Munchies
⁵ Sleep and athletic performance
Fatigue Science (2015)
⁶ 7 Essential Elements of Rest and Recovery
Breaking Muscle (2016)
⁷ Can Sleep Improve Your Athletic Performance
Web MD (2015)
⁸ Why athletes should make sleep a priority in their daily training
Fatigue Science (2013)
⁹ Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.
National Institutes of Health (1997)