Study Advises Sleeping In to Improve Sports Performance

Want to improve your sports performance?  Sleep in, advise researchers.A new study shows that sleeping for longer periods of time is beneficial to athletic performance, reaction time, vigor, fatigue and mood in college athletes.

The researchers say that college basketball players who slept for an extra 111 minutes (nearly 2 hours) each night showed significant improvements in speed and shooting accuracy.  The participants also reported improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being during practices and games.

“It was interesting to note that sleep extension significantly improved different measures of physical performance in basketball from shooting percentages to sprinting times,” said lead author Cheri D. Mah, MS, researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory in Stanford, California, noting the diverse benefits longer periods of sleep was associated with.

According to Mah, an athlete’s nightly sleep requirement should be considered integral to attaining peak performance in all levels of sports. She offered the following tips to help athletes improve their performance by maximizing their sleep:

-Prioritize sleep as a part of your regular training regimen.

-Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your sleep debt before competition.

-Maintain a low sleep debt by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to nine hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults).

-Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day.

-Take brief 20-30 minute naps to obtain additional sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.

Mah has also observed similar benefits of sleep extension in other sports such as football, tennis, and swimming.

The study was published in the journal SLEEP.