Athletic Winner’s Secret

December 7th, 2016  /   Articles

If you’re an athlete or are simply focused on making this the year you get in shape, there’s one secret that you must know. When watching competitive athletes at play—whether it’s at Wimbledon, the World Cup, or the Super Bowl—do you ever wonder how these athletes prepare to perform at their best and get an edge over the competition? Talent and skill obviously help, but there’s one other magic ingredient—sleep! By incorporating more sleep into your daily routine, you can be ahead of the crowd and well on your way to reaching your exercise goals this year.

Improve Your Performance

Research shows that getting more sleep leads to better sports performance. Sleep scientists at Stanford University conducted extensive research on the effects of sleep on athletic performance. Their studies with collegiate athletes show that extending sleep duration leads to significant improvements in athletic performance. A recent study of college varsity tennis players demonstrated the power of sleep on performance. Players had their performance measured while they followed their normal routine and then were asked to extend their sleep to 10 hours per night. The results were striking. Players who got more sleep were able to better hit the ball, serve with higher accuracy, had faster sprint times, and better hitting depth. They also reported less fatigue and increased vigor as they played. And the studies don’t just stop at tennis.

Sleep scientists at the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic found dramatic improvements to athletic performance among college athletes in a number of sports, including basketball, swimming, and football. Athletes were faster, stronger, and displayed greater accuracy and quicker reaction times after extending their sleep. The study also found benefits of increased sleep duration in competitive NCAA athletes. The basketball players achieved better sprint times and more accurate free-throw shooting. In swimmers, the study noted better sprint times, quicker reaction times, improved turn times, and increased kick strokes. Football players who slept longer performed a faster 20-yard shuttle and 40-yard dash. All the collegiate athletes in the study experienced increased endurance and less fatigue.

Jumping Higher, Reaching Further

More quality sleep can also lead to better weight management, which helps athletes push even harder. More and more professional teams, including the Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers, are making sleep a priority in their training. Physical activity is extremely taxing on the body and athletes need the proper amount of time to replenish and rebuild torn muscle and tissue. Increasing sleep can help this process run faster and smoother.

Even if you aren’t a competitive athlete, you can improve your overall daily performance from more quality sleep. The good news is that better sleep is well within your reach. Now, if only serving up aces were that easy!

[Credit] Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. With a specialty in sleep disorders, he is one of only 163 psychologists in the world with his credentials and distinction. Dr. Breus is on the clinical advisory board and a regular contributor to The Dr. Oz Show, and for over 14 years has served as the Sleep Expert for WebMD.

“Snooze You Win? It’s True for Achieving Hoop Dreams, Says Study”. Stanford Medicine.
“Sleep Extension Improves Serving Accuracy: A Study with College Varsity Tennis Players”. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
“Sleep, Athletic Performance, and Recovery”. National Sleep Foundation.