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Importance of Sleep and Athletic Performance

Sleep. Recover. Perform.

Sleep is often a critically overlooked component of an athlete's training program.

When athletes get proper sleep, they are healthy and fit.  When they don't get proper sleep, their health and fitness suffer.

Proper sleep boosts athletic performance:

  • improves cognitive function, 
  • reaction time, 
  • hand-eye coordination, 
  • concentration, 
  • increased energy, and 
  • improved mood.

Proper sleep aids recovery from workouts and reduces risk of injury. deep sleep helps improve athletic performance because this is the time when growth hormone is released. Growth hormone stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building and fat burning, and helps athletes recover. Studies show that sleep deprivation slows the release of growth hormone. 

Athletes who sleep on average less than 8 hours per night have 170% greater risk of being injured than those who sleep more than 8 hours.

The Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, found that when athletes increased sleep time (with a goal of 10 hours of sleep every night), their athletic performance improved and they went on to set new personal bests. 

Tennis players ran faster sprints and hit more accurate shots; 

swimmers improved measures of performance, mood, and alertness; 

and basketball players sprinted faster, reported feeling better in practices and games, and had a nine percent improvement in three-point and free throw shooting. 

Key Takeaways About Sleep and Athletic Performance

  • Tennis players get a 42% boost in hitting accuracy with adequate sleep in their routine.
  • Basketball players saw a 9% improvement in three-point and free throw accuracy by sleeping an extra one hour per night.
  • After 4 days of restricted sleep, athletes maximum bench press drops 20lbs.
  • Sleep improves your split-second decision making ability by 4.3%.
  • Adequate sleep provides swimmers a 17% improvement in reaction time off the starting block

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Elite Athletes and the Importance of Sleep

"Sleep, eat and swim.  It's all I can do" - Michael Phelps

"I think sleep is so important because I break my body down so much with my sport.  It's the only place to get the recovery that I need" - Tom Brady

“Sleep is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body” – Usain Bolt

"For me, sleeping well could mean the difference between putting up 30 points and living with 15" - Steve Nash

"If I don't sleep 11-12 hours a day, it's not right" - Roger Federer

"I love to sleep" - Lindsey Vonn

“Sleep is huge in my sport. Recovery is the limiting factor, not my ability to run hard. I typically sleep about eight to nine hours a night.” — Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall

Sleep is a 'weapon'.  Sleep is a key pillar in improving health and performance. - Seattle Seahawks

“I think sleep is just as important as [diet and exercise]” – Grant Hill

"Recovery is as important as training.  But not recovery in the sense most people understand it.  If your brain is working while you are recovering, it means that you're actually not recovering at all. Quality recovery is training." - Moses Kiptanui

"During the periods when I train hardest, I spend sixteen hours a day in bed." - Lornah Kiplagat

"Without proper sleep, I wasn’t able to think as quickly or clearly, which is critical when you’re flying through the air upside down.  During competition and training, I made sure to get at least eight hours of sleep and more whenever possible." - Shannon Miller

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