Professional sports will forever hold a place in our hearts. But before would-be super stars go pro, most of them start as student athletes in high school and college. Student athletes have a lot to learn if they hope to go big, or at least keep practicing their sport after school ends. One surprising element noted for its impact on athletics is sleep. In this article, we’ll determine how sleep affects performance and athletics, and what student athletes can do to improve their game.
Professionals Need Sleep, Too
Sleep deprivation is not only bad for trying to pay attention in class, it also plays a role in performance on the field. For example, take the Chicago Cubs in the 2017 season. The team hit a serious slump, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon conceded it was sleep deprivation that was to blame for their spell of losses. So, if it plays this kind of role on the professional level, you can bet student athletes will be similarly affected.
The research doesn’t lie. A study conducted by Stanford University found extended sleep duration improves athletic performance significantly. After observing the normal sleep habits of college tennis players, the study asked participants to extend their sleep to 10 hours per night. The results?
- Better hitting accuracy, including more valid serves
- Faster sprint times
- Better hitting depth drill performance
- More vigor and less fatigue
- A 23 percent boost in accuracy
These results are not specific to tennis. Stanford researchers found dramatic improvements in athletic performance among college athletes competing in several sports, including basketball, swimming, and football. Following extended sleep, athletes were faster, stronger and more accurate with quicker reaction times. Much like the pros, collegiate athletes often encounter late night games, jet lag, and injuries. But unlike professionals, student athletes must balance athletic performance with academic success – making sleep increasingly important. So student athletes, don’t forget to add sleep quality to your list of training items; it’ll surely show come the start of your season!