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  • Writer's pictureAthlete Performance

Benefits of Sleep & Recovery In Sport

The sports world never slows down or stops. Athletes are moving from one sport to the next as the seasons come and go. During all of this we need to make sure sleep and rest is not missed. Many athletes do not understand the effects of sleep deprivation on our bodies. Sleep has a very large effect on all of us, especially athletes and their ability to adequately recover from their training sessions, and other environmental factors. Proper sleep behavior has many benefits to all of us, but especially to athletes and their physical recovery, conservation of energy, memory, immune system, and emotions (Samuels, 2008). On the other hand, lack of sleep can be detrimental to our mental, physical, and emotional health and therefore, is important for athletes to understand why they need to prioritize their sleep, best practices for sleep, and the benefits of sleep.

Research findings indicate that athletes generally sleep less than non-athletes and often have difficulty sleeping (Walters, 2002). It is important for athletes to be aware of their sleeping habits as they have more chaotic schedules that may be negatively affecting their performance due to lack of sleep. “Complete rest or sleep is still seen as the main means of restoring physical working capacity, as well as mental restoration” (Dale, 2004; Bompa & Haff, 2009). In addition, sleep and exercise are found to be important in initiating growth hormone secretion, which is the hormone that is responsible for maintaining lean muscle mass, increasing bone density, and helps raise blood glucose (Godfrey et al., 2003). Sleep also plays a huge role in memory, and motor skill development, which is a key part of developing as an athlete. Venter et al., stated that optimal skill learning in athletes is dependent on sleep, and sleep-dependent motor sequence learning depends on quality sleep within the first 24 hours after training. This is essential for optimal performance on the court and within strength & conditioning sessions.

For many of us, eight hours a night is the recommended amount of sleep that allows us to perform at our best, avoid mid-day slumps, and avoid fatigue-related illness Reisser, 2006:1). However, Bompa and Haff (2009) believe athletes require 9-10 hours due to their athletic schedules and performance requirements. The research also mentions that naps can be found to benefit athletes as time permits and if naps are not too long, or if they prevent the athletes from falling asleep at night. Best sleep is achieved in a warm-cool environment, physical relaxation in a comfortable position, as well as no sensory distractions and low stress levels (Cole, 2005). Taking all this into consideration, we need to ensure that our athletes take getting sleep as a priority, as well as making sure they have limited distractions during their sleep and that they allow for 8-10 hours of sleep to give them the best chance of achieving their optimal performance levels.

Just remember, sleep performance is a critical pillar to success on the court, field or ice. Prioritize your sleep, and your in-sport performance will follow!

Venter, R. E. (2012). Role of sleep in performance and recovery of athletes: a review article. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation, 34(1), 167-184.

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