Trainings make good athletes, but sleep can make them even better. In fact, a 2011 study suggests that reaching the optimal level of sleep can lead to peak athletic performance. Don’t believe us? Just ask Usain Bolt who broke every record that could be broken in sprinting. Sleep is “extremely important” to him, since it provides him with rest and time to recover.
Not only him, many other successful professional athletes, like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Lebron James, place sleep high on their priority list when it comes to factors impacting their success. So, what makes sleep so important for professional athletes and how can they get enough of it?
The Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation can be hazardous for performance and daily functioning. A study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that even moderate sleep deprivation results in deterioration of motor and cognitive performance equal to the one caused by legally prescribed levels of alcohol consumption.
Lack of sleep can also make you prone to accidents, affect your immune and digestive system and worsen your cognitive abilities. If you haven’t been sleeping enough just one night, your response time could be reduced by 300 percent. One of the breakthrough findings of scientific research was that fatigue can actually shorten the career of professional athletes.
The Sleep Requirements of Athletes
Most people usually need between seven and eight hours of sleep to reach optimal performance, but is it the same for professional athletes? Not really. The more physical activity you get – the more sleep you need in order to rebuild the muscles and the nervous system.
Most of the professional athletes get between 11 and 12 hours of sleep per night, which helps them to be focused and energized. Adequate sleep can boost hitting accuracy in tennis players by 42 percent, and a power nap (20 to 30 minutes) improves alertness by a 100 percent.
Optimizing Your Sleeping Routine
For a professional athlete (e.g. women ice skaters), sleeping shouldn’t be something that is done when they feel tired, it must be a process that is managed in a way that is most beneficial for their performance. Getting between 10 and 12 hours of sleep per night may be difficult if you are not willing to go to bed early enough.
Creating a routine which allows for at least one hour of rest and relaxation before bedtime (instead of some stimulating activity), helps induce sleep at the desired time. High-volume physical activities should be avoided too early or too late during the day.
The Quality Also Counts
We are always talking about getting enough sleep, but almost never about the quality of that sleep. Irregular sleep patterns, bad sleeping positions, etc. can still lead to fatigue and back and muscle pain, even if you are getting your 12 hours of sleep. Keeping an air humidifier in your bedroom can significantly contribute to sleep quality, since it prevents drying out of your lungs and nasal passages.
A good mattress that is neither too soft nor too hard can prevent muscle cramping, fatigue, headaches, sleep apnea, back and neck pain, but the way you are laying on it is also important. Casper, a new mattress startup, has created a sleep surface that is universally comfortable! The design contours to the body while relieving pressure and retaining a cool temperature.
The healthiest option is sleeping on your back, because it allows your spine, neck and head to rest in a neutral position. Also, the optimal sleep temperature is around 65 degrees which allows your body temperature to decrease which initiates sleep and gets you to your restorative sleep sooner.
Restorative sleep is where all of your energy is restored, the blood to your muscles is increased and your internal systems start to repair, all being important factors in raising your performance when you wake up.
Sleep is a crucial part of a professional athlete routine, and there are plenty of good reasons for it. All you have to decide now is, are you a champion or the second best? A few hours of sleep can make a big difference.