An athlete relies on many different factors for creating success, such as diet, strength training and practice.
However, an often overlooked underlying factor which may also have an effect is the amount of sleep an athlete gets each night
One area of athletic performance that can be affected by not enough sleep is overall reaction time. However reaction time performance can also be affected if small amounts of sleep are lost over time – such as an hour of sleep a night – creating what researchers call a “sleep debt.” Reaction time is necessary for everything from quick movements to catching a ball in sports.
Another area of athletic performance that may be affected by a lack of sleep is the ability to stay focused on the game. Along with reaction time, sustained attention also becomes affected after 88 hour of awake time or with the accrual of a substantial sleep debt.
Sleep is also necessary for the body to heal and recover after a physically demanding athletic training session.. Sleep allows the body to spend less energy resources on body processes needed while awake, and more energy resources towards helping muscles and other tissues heal and recover.
Naps are generally favoured by sports scientists. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that naps as short as 10 minutes helped people recuperate from sleep debt. Sleep research on athletic performance is relevant for non-athletes as well.
If you want to be at your best, either on the playing field or in the office, going to bed and getting up every day at the same time will enhance your ability to sleep as long as you need.