Now recently, I’ve been dealing with some sleep issues myself, so I couldn’t help but wonder about the affect that sleep (or lack thereof) has on your performance on the field.

We all have heard that sleep makes a difference, but I wondered what kind of real research has been done on the topic.

I decided to do some Googling research, and I thought I’d share some of the main things I learned.

Below are links to the articles I read, in case you want to check them out for yourself.

Extra Sleep Improves Athletic Performance
Sleep And High Performance: What Olympic Athletes Know About Sleep.
How to Sleep Like an Olympic Athlete
The Importance of Sleep for Better Athletic Performance
Sleep Deprivation Can Hinder Sports Performance

Let’s get to it.

Lesson #1: The Amount of Sleep You Get Makes a Difference


I always heard that sleep makes a difference, but the study referenced in the Extra Sleep Improves Athletic Performance article really drove the point home for me.

In the study, they took athletes from the men’s and women’s swimming teams and analyzed their sleep patterns, and looked at how

Numerous studies have concluded that sleep affects athletic and mental performance. (ICON Sports)

their sleep affected their performance.

They found that increases in the amount of sleep they got made significant improvements in performance:

After obtaining extra sleep, athletes swam a 15-meter meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds and increased kick strokes by 5.0 kicks.

Cheri Mah, of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory conducted this study, and said believes that athletes in all sports can improve their physical performance, their mood, and decrease their chances of getting sleepy during the day (surprise-surprise) by getting enough sleep at night.

As if that wasn’t enough, they also found that that getting right helps improve physical strength and energy.

So whether you’re just trying to stay awake in team and position meetings (trust me, I’ve been there), or trying to get an edge in a position battle, getting proper rest every night should be a priority for you.


Lesson #2: Importance of Maintaining a Low Sleep Debt


Mah’s expertise was sought out for the Huffington Post’s Sleep And High Performance… article as well.

She spoke on the term “sleep debt,” which I’d never heard before, so I was glad that she defined it.

Apparently, sleep debt occurs when you fail to get your required sleep every night. Over time (and even as soon as the next day), the effects of the sleep debt can dramatically hurt your athletic performance.


Now it’s not always possible, but Mah said that athletes should take naps during the day whenever they feel drowsy. This will help prevent sleep debts too.

But how much sleep should we get?   Mah recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and that young adults and teens get nine or more.

Mah also recommended that athletes extend the amount of sleep they get when a competition is getting near. This prevents a sleep debt from affecting your performance on game day.


Lesson #3: Tips to Getting Better Sleep


In Sleep Like an Olympian, Mark Rosekind, PhD a former NASA scientist and current president of Alertness Solutions gave several tips to getting better rest at night.

Rosekind discussed what he felt are the main environmental that influence sleep quality: noise, light, and temperature.

Noise – The most disturbing kinds of noise are “intrusive” events, like a door slamming shut, for example.

To help drown out these types of noises while you sleep, he recommended that you use a fan or a sound machine to help drown out noises while you sleep, especially if you’re sleeping in an environment where it’s hard to avoid being around these kinds of disturbances.

Light – It needs to be as dark as possible. Yeah, I know, nothing new on this one, but what I thought was interesting, was the reason why sleeping in the dark is so important.

Sara Mednick, PhD from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, says that our bodies require the melatonin hormone in order to sleep, and it’s only released in environments where there’s little to no light.

Temperature – According to Rosekind, it’s better to have it cool in the room you’re sleeping in, than hot.

Now I’ve always thought that the warmer the room is, the more likely you are to get sleepy, but on the other hand, I remember some hot summer nights in my dorm room in college where I couldn’t sleep, so I was kind of confused on this topic.

Dr. Daniel McNally who leads the sleep Disorders Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center, breaks down the science on why the room temperature needs to be cool:

Your body temperature tracks your circadian rhythm, so as night begins, your body temp falls and it reaches a minimum right after you go to bed. If you are in an environment where you can’t lose body heat, for instance if it’s hot and humid, you won’t sleep well.

The Importance of Sleep article offered some additional tips for getting better sleep at night:

Slow down your brain – To do this, try writing down anything that’s on your mind before you go to bed, and try to forget about it until the next day.

I’m the type of person that will lay in the bed thinking about all I have to do the next day. I started doing this (although not as often as I should) a few years ago, and I definitely saw an improvement.

A while back, I discovered that what was keeping me up, was the concern that I’d “forget” to do some of the important things I needed to do the next day.

So I typing my tasks for the next day into the calendar on my smartphone. This habit has helped me get more organized, become more efficient, and improve my sleep.

Relax before going to bed – They recommend that you read from a book, or listen to some soft music before you try to go to sleep, and that you avoid watching tv or surfing the Internet right before you go to bed.

Now this is something I’m not so good at, but I’m getting better. Sometimes I find that if I pull up a few articles that interest me on my smartphone before I try to go to sleep, I’m able to go to sleep faster.

Watch as Dr. Jarrod Spencer, of briefly talks about the importance sleep has on athletic performance:

Check back for part 2, coming soon!

Have you ever noticed a difference in your mental or athletic performance when you get a good night’s rest?  Leave a comment!

Catch me on Twitter!  @alvingrier 

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