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Opinion: How Should Athletes Manage Their Sleep 

Vishal Ingole
CONTRIBUTOR
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161   //    Timeless

2017 AFL Draft Combine
2017 AFL Draft Combine

Pro-athletes know that there is no separating sleep and performance. As part of their profession, athletes need to make sure that they are focused, alert and challenge their bodies to new heights of performance. While training, exercise and diet play an extremely important role in maximizing their abilities, an increasing number of athletes have recently started talking about how sleep also acts as a performance enhancer.

Recent studies have shown that a good night’s sleep has a direct link not only to performance but also recovery. This makes good sleep key to athletic success. Athletic trainers, as well as doctors, are promoting sleep to be just as important as nutrition and exercise for any athlete.

All of this makes it incredibly important for athletes to have proper sleep management as part of their lifestyle.

How Athletes Can Manage Their Sleep

Here is a look at some of the best ways that athletes can manage their sleep and enhance their performance and recovery.

Get 12 Hours of Sleep Every Night: One of the things that many athletes do is make sure that they sleep for 12 hours each night. When they combine exercise and nutrition with plenty of sleep, it results in their performance skyrocketing.

According to research, basketball players who got 10 hours of sleep each night for 5 consecutive weeks improved their reaction times, could run faster and saw a 9% increase in their three-pointers and free throw success rate. The players also reported that they felt both physically and mentally better during practice and games.

Take Naps: Some athletes make sure that they get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, and whenever possible, more than this. They also make sure to take naps regularly. They catch a power nap while they are on a plane or bus.

Naps give their body and mind much needed time to recover. Sleeping, including napping, is just as important to their training as stretching, skills as well as conditioning. Many athletes take a 2-hour nap before they resume training to improve performance and recovery.

Assess Individual Sleep Environment: There are athletes who show that they give the utmost importance to ensuring that they get proper sleep. They hire sleep experts to assess their individual sleep environment, including lighting, temperature, air quality, and the best type of duvet and mattresses for them.

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Some athletes even go on one-on-one sleep consultations based on their daily routines, the intensity of the activities they engage in, body characteristics and sleep habits. Additionally, there are athletes who drink milk-based protein drinks to help in muscle recovery and inducing a state of sleepiness.

Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule: One of the most important steps that athletes should take for sleep management is to make sure that they get on a regular sleep schedule. The quantity of sleep they get is key to winning.

This means that they should go to bed and get up at the same time on a daily basis. Athletes also travel a lot and this can hamper their sleep schedule. One of the things that they can do when traveling is giving themselves time to get used to their new setting.

For instance, they should get to their destination a few days – or even weeks – early, so that their body can adjust and they make sure that they have time to get on a normal sleep schedule.

Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol: It is important for athletes to reduce their intake of caffeine and alcohol in order to maintain a normal sleep routine.

As with everyone else, caffeine and alcohol can wreak havoc on an athlete’s ability to get proper sleep. Experts advise athletes to start cutting back on caffeine 2 or 3 days before a competition.

Caffeinated drinks can have a significant impact on the time it takes to fall asleep. It is crucial that they avoid anything that could disrupt their sleep.

Many athletic experts recommend that if they cannot get 12 hours sleep, athletes should get at least 9 hours of sleep every night. During REM and non-REM stages, physical and mental rejuvenation takes places, making sleep the most vital element to athletic recovery and optimum performance.

Research has found that athletes who do not get proper sleep have weakened immune systems, slow reaction times, and insufficient production of hormones – all of which are directly linked to sports injuries, which in turn hinder their ability to play.

Sleep deprivation or lack of proper sleep can have a seriously negative impact on an athlete’s physical and mental recovery as well as their performance.

Because sleep plays a critical role in functions such as motor response, memory and attention, emotional control and complex thought, it is essential for athletes, and everyone else for that matter, to make sure that they manage sleep and get a good night’s sleep every night.

Even the most rigorous training and athletic bodies and skills are rendered useless if they are unable to maintain high-functioning motor responses or make split-second decisions. So, athletes must make sure to find the best ways to manage their sleep and get the rest they need to be their athletic best both physically and mentally. 

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