5 Reasons Sleep has the Biggest Impact on Athletic Performance

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Whatever your sport, training and nutrition are vital to your performance. There’s one more important component to include on your daily checklist: Sleep. Many athletes are surprised to discover that the amount of sleep they get matters – and so does its quality. In case you need more convincing, here are five reasons sleep affects athletic performance.

Sleep is Vital for Athletic Recovery

You’ve relaxed, curled up with your favorite blanket, and snoozed off. While you’re dreaming of making your next goal or subconsciously gearing up for a great home run, your body undergoes important repairs. Muscle recovery happens during sleep, and just as important, central nervous recovery happens at the same time. Since your central nervous system is solely responsible for everything from accurate muscle contractions to reaction time, it’s vital to make sleep a priority.

Take a cue from Serena Williams: She has a habit of heading for bed around seven each night. Your bedtime doesn’t have to be as early as hers, but if you routinely hit the sheets later than you’d like to, it’s time to revamp your schedule. For helpful sleep tips, along with accessories that help you sleep better. A few minor changes could add up to big gains in the sleep department.

Insufficient Sleep Increases the Risk of Injury and Illness

Not getting enough shut-eye? If so, multiple studies suggest that you’re at an increased risk of injuring yourself. One notable study that focused on sleep and athletic performance concluded that adolescent athletes who enjoyed at least eight hours of sleep per night were at a 68 percent lower risk of injury than those who slept less. A second study followed middle and high-school age athletes, and concluded that sleep deprivation played a role in sports-related injuries.

There’s more: Since sleep has a regulatory effect on the immune system, fatigue can be devastating as it makes you more likely to catch the next bug that comes around. This can affect an entire team since close environments like buses and locker rooms can encourage the spread of illness from one player to the next. It’s easy to imagine how much team performance would suffer if multiple players were suffering from a cold or flu!

Your Reaction Time is Linked to Sleep

When we’re fatigued, our reaction time suffers. One of the most frequently cited studies concerning the importance of sleep for reaction time concluded that pulling an all-nighter cuts reaction time by a shocking fifty percent which is the same as consuming about four alcoholic beverages or drinking until blood alcohol reaches 0.5%. Knowing this and considering the increased risk of injury when playing fatigued, it makes sense to prioritize sleep.

Sleep Impacts Your Ability to Focus

How many of us have heard our coaches yelling “Eyes on the ball! Focus!” It’s a common rallying cry, but if you’re sleep-deprived, it’s going to be a lot harder to follow through. If you prefer to spend your time on the court or field and not on the bench, increase your ability to focus by getting plenty of sleep.

Mental fatigue can have a negative impact on all athletes – even pros. A study of 30 professional Major League Baseball teams found that players showed better judgement during the beginning of the season, before the stress of travel and the overall fatigue caused by a 162-game season took its toll.

Sleep Impacts an Athlete’s Speed and Accuracy

Swimmers, weight lifters, baseball players, basketball players, and athletes notice enhanced accuracy and speed when they enjoy adequate sleep. Whether you’re circling the track, shooting free throws, hitting baseballs, performing deadlifts, or trying to make it to the end of the pool before the rest of the swimmers, your sleep habits will either give you an edge or pave the way for second-class performance.

The takeaway? Sleep and athletic performance go hand in hand, and most athletes do their best when they get about 10 hours per night. Make adequate sleep an important part of your training plan so that your muscles have a chance to recover. Your mood and your stress level will improve, too, and you’ll find that it’s far easier to keep your head in the game. Whatever your sport, sleep quality matters. Hydrate, train, eat, sleep, repeat. It’s a recipe for success on and off the field.