Most athletes are constantly searching for new ways to improve performance. They push their bodies to the limit during competition, but are there ways to increase that limit? While many athletes automatically turn to varied or increased training regimens, some athletes could significantly improve their performance just by getting better sleep at night.
Incorporating better sleep habits in training plans is becoming more and more popular with athletes and their trainers. In fact, NFL teams have even started treating sleep as sort of a “secret weapon” to give their players an advantage.
So, why should athletes consider spending more time snoozing before pumping more iron?
Athletes Who Sleep More Tend to Have Fewer Injuries
Chancing injury during competition is a big risk that athletes take. That’s why it is important that athletes and their trainers take every precaution to prevent injury on and off the field.
Studies have shown that sleep can be an important factor in preventing athletic injuries. In a 2012 study of teen athletes, (on average) those “who slept greater than or equal to 8 hours each night were 68% less likely to be injured.” It’s important to note, however, that results showed the risk of injury increased by 2.3 times as age increased.
Our sleep cycle is a crucial time for our bodies to repair and process the experiences of our waking hours. Especially in younger athletes, sleep is important for “memory repair and consolidation, rebalancing of hormones and recovery of tissue damage from normal use and injury, all of which are critical for normal growth, learning and health.”
Also, during the sleep cycle our blood flow increases, which helps the body repair and strengthen itself.
Sleep Helps Fuel Athletes’ Brains
Athletes use their brains just as much as their muscles during competition. During a game, it’s important that the brain allows an athlete to plan ahead and create an overall strategy for what is happening. It’s especially important for the brain to be in tip-top shape during competition when reaction time is key.
A 2010 Stanford University study on the men’s varsity basketball team determined that by increasing sleep time to 10 hours per night, participants sprinted faster, increased shooting accuracy, and reported “improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being during practice and games.”
Possible Consequences for Sleep-Deprived Athletes
With the constant pressure to be faster and stronger, athletes run the risk of overdoing it.
Sleep-deprivation in athletes can negatively affect memory, focus, reaction time, attention span, and overall performance.
In extreme cases, athletes who don’t get enough rest run the risk of developing overtraining syndrome, which can lead to depression, overall fatigue, and neurohormonal changes.
In less extreme cases, sleep deprivation “leads to less fuel for the brain, decreased immune function to fight off illness and a greater risk of obesity.”
Ways Athletes Can Improve Performance With Sleep
Here are some things you or the athlete in your life can do to sleep better:
- Optimize your sleep environment! Check out our blog for tips to get started: 5 Sleep Environment Upgrades for Better Sleep
- Avoid artificial light, especially during the nighttime hours. Check out our blog for further reading: Artificial Light and How it Affects Sleep
- Eat the right foods during the day. Check out: Sleep Better Naturally with a Better Sleep Diet
- Set an earlier bedtime and take time for naps during the day. Check out: 5 Reasons to Take More Naps
Just like how we mentioned above that NFL teams are taking a keen interest in players’ sleep habits, many athletic trainers in all sports are starting to pay a lot more attention to how sleep habits fit in a training regimen.
If athletes are waking up in the morning feeling groggy, trainers will check to see if “factors like temperature, light, noise and air quality may be affecting [a player’s] sleep quality.”
Even napping is getting a lot of attention. In the NBA, for example, “the napping culture is so prevalent that league officials know better than to call players in the afternoon.”
Sometimes it Takes a Team Effort
Athletes are used to pushing their bodies to the limit. Sometimes, it’s up to a support team of family, friends, and teammates to help prevent an athlete from overdoing it.
If the athlete in your life is looking for new ways to improve his/her performance, getting better sleep just might be the answer!
An easy way you can help your athlete sleep better at night is by gifting him or her with a SleepSwag sleep mask.
Our crazy comfortable masks are available here in our secure online store. With multiple patterns available, you’re sure to find a mask to fit every personality. Order today to get a sleep mask shipped right to your door!
—The SleepSwag Team