How Is Sleep Different For Athletes? Sleep Hygiene Tips for Athletes Update 07/2024

A healthy lifestyle includes regular physical activity, as most athletes are well aware. Regular physical activity enhances life expectancy. Source You Can Count On Preventative Health Services of the United States The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serves as the nation’s health protection agency, saving lives and protecting the public from health dangers. This website and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and several malignancies. In addition to improving your mood and quality of sleep, regular physical activity can lower your risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Athletes must prepare in all elements of their lives in order to perform at their peak. They maintain a regular training schedule, consume nutritious meals and snacks, and schedule adequate time for recovery, rest, and shut-eye. When there is a weakness in one area, the total performance may be compromised. There is no exception to this rule when it comes to sleep!

Why Is Sleep Important For Athletes?

Sleep is vital for good health and well-being, whether you’re a competitive athlete or not. A good night’s sleep is essential for recharging one’s batteries and performing at one’s best the following day. Aside from the obvious:

  • Resting your heart and allowing your cells and tissues to rebuild themselves. This can aid your body’s recovery after a workout or other strenuous activity. The adjustments in heart rate and breathing that occur throughout the night as you proceed through the stages of sleep enhance cardiovascular health.
  • The goal is to keep you healthy or to help you recover from an illness. Cytokines, immune-boosting hormones, are produced by your body as you sleep.

Athletes’ ability to recuperate and perform at their best depends on these restorative benefits.

How Sleep Helps an Athlete’s Mental State

Everyone benefits from sleep in terms of memory retention and consolidation. Having a good night’s rest after practicing or learning new skills helps athletes remember what they’ve learned and improves their future performance. Learning and memory pathways in the brain can’t be developed or maintained without sleep.

The ability to think clearly is largely dependent on the quality of one’s sleep. Cognitive deterioration is linked to sleep deprivation. Athletes whose sports demand a high level of cognitive function, such as making decisions and adapting to new conditions, may suffer as a result of this.

Athletes’ emotional health depends on sleep just as much as their physical health does and vice versa. Getting a good night’s sleep might have a positive impact on your mood. Sleeping well reduces irritability and the chance of developing conditions like depression.

How Does Sleep Affect Athletic Performance?

Athletes benefit from improved performance in several areas related to the demands of their sport when they get more and better sleep.

  • In a Stanford study of men’s basketball players who slept an additional 10 hours a night, researchers found a number of good results. In both the half-court and full-court sprints, the players outperformed the field. At least 9 percent of their free throws and three-point shots improved. Both physical and mental well-being increased for the players.
  • Male and female swimmers who slept an additional 10 hours a night exhibited significant performance gains. Diving block reaction times were sped up, turn times were improved, and kick strokes increased. Speeds in a 15-meter sprint have also gotten faster. These athletes also reported an enhanced mood and less daytime sleepiness and exhaustion as a result of the supplementation.
  • Male and female varsity tennis players both benefitted from getting nine hours of sleep per week or more. There was a significant rise in the players’ serve accuracy, going from 36% to about 42%. In addition, the athletes reported feeling less sleepy.
  • Educating athletes about good sleep habits have been shown to benefit both female netball players and male soccer players, according to other research. A good night’s sleep the night before a competition is likely to lead to an excellent showing.

A Lack of Sleep Affects an Athlete’s Performance

Sleep deprivation can cause a wide range of health problems in any individual. Lack of sleep impairs a person’s ability to react swiftly and think effectively in the mental realm as well. The more sleep-deprived someone is, the more prone they are to make poor decisions and take risks. Irritability, anxiety, and sadness can all be exacerbated by sleep deprivation. In terms of health, not getting enough sleep puts you at greater risk for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, renal disease, and stroke.

A lack of sleep can have a negative impact on an athlete’s ability to perform at their best. The following issues can emerge if athletes don’t get enough sleep:

  • Inhibited ability. Average and total sprint times dropped in a study of sleep-deprived male team sport athletes.
  • Decreased accuracy. The serve accuracy of male and female tennis players was reduced by up to 53% following sleep loss compared to regular sleep.
  • Quicker exhaustion. Sleep restriction led to a greater exhaustion rate for both male runners and volleyball players in a study.
  • Decreased reaction time. Researchers found that male college athletes who didn’t get enough sleep had slower reaction times.
  • Difficulty learning and decision making. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on executive functions. Passing or attempting to score the ball might be more difficult or time-consuming if the decision is made too late in the game.
  • Risk for injury. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of injury in studies of middle and high school athletes.
  • Risk for illness or immunosuppression. Low levels of immunity to common illnesses like the cold are linked to insufficient sleep.

How Is Sleep Different For Athletes?

Athletes who get more sleep, or who sleep longer, are better able to recuperate and perform at their best. Athletes should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, on average. For elite athletes, sleep is as important as training and nutrition, and they are expected to get at least nine hours of sleep each night. People who engage in a modest amount of physical activity, on the other hand, may not require as much sleep as those who compete at the highest levels. The recommended amount of sleep is adequate.

Some sleepers, such as those with insomnia, should avoid napping after a night of little sleep, although athletes can benefit from it. Athletes who know they will have a bad night of sleep can benefit from sleeping longer than the night before. Traveling to a competition, competing in a big event, or being sick or injured all necessitate more sleep than usual.

Getting up early can be more detrimental to some athletes than staying up late. Judo athletes were shown to suffer power and muscular weakness the following day after sleep deprivation at the conclusion of the sleeping time (i.e. early morning). If your performance is being hampered by early morning wake-ups, talk to your coach about creating a training and competition plan that works best for you.

Stages of Sleep for Athletes

Each stage of sleep performs a different purpose, all of which are important for a restful night’s sleep. However, are there certain aspects of the sleep cycle that are particularly advantageous to athletes?

It appears so, according to a survey of Norwegian chess players. When it came to chess performance, those who rose in the rankings had different sleep patterns than those who fell. There was a decrease in REM sleep, more deep sleep, and lower respiratory rates in the sleep patterns of the better players.

Sleep Hygiene Tips for Athletes

Everyone needs to practice good sleep hygiene in order to get a good night’s sleep. Components like as:

  • Creating a peaceful and comfortable sleeping space. It’s best to sleep in a room that’s dark, cool, and quiet. Your bedroom should only be utilized for sex and sleep, not for anything else.
  • Before you go to bed, stay away from alcohol and caffeine. Having one of these beverages before going to bed can cause sleep disturbances.
  • In the hours leading up tonight, avoid using any electronic devices. All electronic devices fall under this category. These devices emit blue light, which can interfere with your circadian clock.
  • Have a regimen to help you relax. Getting ready for bed can be made easier with the help of activities like reading, having a bath, or meditating.
  • If you haven’t been able to sleep for more than 20 minutes, it’s time to get out of bed. Take a break in a calm area until you’re ready to go to sleep.

In addition to these suggestions for better sleep hygiene, athletes should practice the following additional habits:

  • Don’t overdo it in the gym. Maintain a regular training program so that you don’t overdo it.
  • Avoid training and tournaments that are either too early or too late in the season. Sleep amount and quality might be affected by these factors, particularly if your athletic schedule is unpredictable.
  • If you’re going to take a nap, make it a short one. No naps should be taken after 3 p.m. or for longer than an hour.
  • Eliminate sources of tension in your life. Both sleep quality and overall performance are negatively impacted by mental pressures.

Jet Lag in Athletes

Athletes must also consider the effects of jet lag on their sleep quality. Athletes can become out of sync with their natural circadian rhythms when competing in other time zones. As a result, athletes may experience exhaustion or an inability to perform at their highest capacity. As an example, West Coast American football teams perform substantially better at home in the evening than East Coast opponents.

Athletes traveling should follow these additional sleep hygiene tips to avoid jet lag:

  • Prepare for travel. To easily acclimate to the new time zone upon arrival, plan your sleep routine to match the time zone of your final destination. When you board the plane, set your watch to the time zone of your destination.
  • Get enough sleep before traveling. Traveling might be exhausting, so make sure you get some rest before and throughout the trip.
  • Make a comfortable environment. Cushioning and comfort can both be provided by pillows. In order to get a good night’s sleep on a plane, you may want to wear earplugs and eye masks. Distract yourself from technology devices.
  • Stay hydrated. Take plenty of fluids with you on the plane. Avoid consuming coffee or alcohol.
  • Eat meals at the destination time. The time it takes to get used to a new time zone can be cut in half by planning your meals according to the time zone you’ll be in when you arrive.

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