Sleep improves athletic performance. Without sleep, our performance suffers. Rest may be the most important part to an athlete’s performance during competition.
Two-a-days are no longer the answer to becoming a better athlete. Actually, two-a-days could make you an even worse athlete. So what’s the solution? Sleep. Sleeping improves athletic performance. When you get enough sleep, you will compete better the next day, so forget 5 a.m. practices and tell your coach that sleep is the winning formula.
Sleep Improves Athletic PerformanceAthletes are constantly trying to become the best they can be and perform better each time. They set goals for themselves, try to beat others’ goals and ultimately want to win. Athletes try to be the best by changing their diets, trying new exercises, training harder and training more frequently. However, something athletes may not think of that will make them perform better is to make time for sleep, and not just the quantity of sleep, but the quality of sleep. Quality sleep allows athletes' bodies to enter every sleep cycle needed for them to perform better.
So why are athletes not sleeping? Maybe it’s that athletes wholeheartedly believe the sayings “rise and grind” or “can’t stop, won’t stop” are the ways to becoming the best. Maybe when we think of “athlete,” we don’t think of someone cuddling up in bed at 9 p.m. to get some rest. Athletes don’t want to seem “lazy” or “unmotivated,” but the truth is athletes need to sleep to be able to perform at a competitive level.
Top athletes and organizations today even recognize the importance of sleep and how it affects their performances. Olympians like Serena Williams and Lance Armstrong have talked about how eight hours of sleep or more has improved their mood, performance and concentration. More attention is being placed on the importance of sleep for athletes.
Sleep can help athletes fuel their bodies to perform harder. It gives their bodies reserve energy when they really need to make a tackle or push a little harder, shave time off their running speed, improve their reaction time and agility and more. In one study done by Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, research found that sleep improved the performance of college basketball players on the court. When the players were placed on an 8.5 to 10 hour a night sleep schedule, researchers found that it had improved the players’ running speeds, shooting accuracy and reaction time. This new sleep schedule additionally enhanced players’ moods during practice and games.
Sleep has many cognitive benefits that transfer onto the court, field or wherever you perform. When we sleep, we have faster reaction time, our memory (including our muscle memory) works better, we learn faster, we have better hand-eye coordination and we are more focused.
These cognitive functions allow athletes to be quick on their feet, make faster judgment calls and they're able to use the maximum amount of energy needed to perform, allowing athletes to outplay, outrun and outscore athletes who may only sleep five or less hours.
Since sleep enhances focus, the Stanford sleep study showed that more focus means better aim and basketball players made more three-pointers and free throw shots than they did when they were fatigued. Besides God-given talent, do you really think Michael Phelps was able to win 28 medals by going on no sleep? Absolutely not. The U.S. Olympic Committee makes sure athletes are getting enough sleep because it's now known that sleep is just as important for athletes as the more well-known diet and exercises.
Not only does sleep give our bodies fuel, but it also helps our muscles get bigger. Whenever our bodies got into a deep sleep cycle, human growth hormones (HGH) are released into the body. HGH helps build muscle and strengthens muscle tissue. Athletes who do not get enough sleep will take HGH supplements, which are similar to steroids and also illegal in many sporting organizations. Instead of using illegal substances, you could just sleep and experience the same effects.
Due to the phenomenon of sleep, the NCAA is now an advocate for sleep and how sleep affects the performance of college athletes on the court physically and mentally. Sleep keeps college athletes focused on the court and also helps relieve anxiety and stress from school, pressure and other activities they have going on in their lives. Sleep is not only good for the body, but also for the brain. When you’re in a better mood, it makes practice a little less miserable.
As athletes and athletic organizations begin to realize how important sleep is, things will begin to change. Early morning practices will be a thing of the past to give athletes extra time for rest and restoration. The benefits of sleep are more important than squeezing in one more exercise before a big game -- the best thing for an athlete is to sleep. Sports require brain power, quick reaction time, attentiveness, making smart plays, making shots and energy to tackle and jump high, and this all can be done from a quality night of undisturbed rest.
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