How Much Sleep Do Athletes Need? Your Guide to Sleep & Athletic Performance

Did you know that more than 35 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep per night?

Sleep deprivation could be costing the US economy up to $411 billion in lost productivity.

If you think that’s a lot of missed opportunity, wait until you hear about the damage athletes could be doing to their performance due to lack of sleep.

In this article, you’ll learn how much sleep do athletes need and much more. Let’s get started!

How Much Sleep do Athletes Need?

We know that many Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. But, how much is enough?

Well, the average person should be getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Therefore, if you’re getting under 7 hours, then you’re not getting enough.

Over 2 in 10 people actually have a sleep disorder. This can seriously damage your capacity to get a good night’s rest.

But, the importance of sleep for athletes is even greater. If you want to boost your athletic performance, you have to sleep more than the average person.

An athlete needs up to 10 hours of sleep per night in order to be able to perform at the top of their game. It doesn’t matter whether the extra sleep is gained through early nights or afternoon naps, as long as you start sleeping more.

Why do Athletes Need More Sleep?

You may be wondering what makes athletes so special. Lots of people have difficult and demanding jobs which require a lot of energy – what’s the difference?

Well, athletes are always pushing themselves physically to improve. They need to keep up their energy levels to continue to improve their performance.

Just as athletes require more calories than the average person to build muscle and maintain energy levels, the same goes for sleep.

If an athlete has 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night, they may not feel particularly tired the next day. The effects may not be apparent at all. However, it will become apparent through the performance.

That’s because the benefits of sleep are not always related to exhaustion and tiredness. Your body needs to repair and regain energy to achieve your best results.

What are the Benefits of Sleep for Athletes?

There are numerous benefits of sleep for athletes which you’ll be surprised to hear. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a football player of a runner, all athletes need to get enough sleep.

1. Increased Speed

In a study by Stanford University, basketball players were required to sleep an additional 2 hours of sleep each night over a period of several months.

The researchers found that the athletes improved speed by up to 5 percent.

2. Improved Accuracy

In the same Stanford University study, the participants improved the accuracy of their free throws by up to 9 percent. This is especially helpful for basketball players.

3. Better Reactions

Depending on your sport or competition, reaction times are usually extremely important. It’s clear that sleep deprivation definitely damages your reaction time. A night without sleep can reduce your reaction time by up to 300 percent.

If you’re experiencing fatigue, your reaction times could be worse than if you were drunk on alcohol. In fact, 22 hours without sleep is broadly equivalent to four drinks of alcohol.

5. Reduced Risk of Injury

Injuries can significantly damage an athlete’s career. You can’t afford to be recovering from foot injury all the time.

By getting the right amount of sleep, you could significantly reduce your susceptibility to injury.

One study found that young people who slept for less than 8 hours compared with those that slept over 8 hours were 1.7 times more likely to incur an injury.

How to Improve Your Sleep?

Athletes are familiar with the physical and mental challenges which getting more sleep comprises.

If you’re always busy with training, travel and the stresses of life in general.

1. Get a Bed Time

You need to go to bed and wake up at the same time. This certainly isn’t easy if your schedule changes on a regular basis. Yet the benefits are significant.

2. Allow for Adjustment

If you’re approaching a big competition and you want to be at your best, then you need to prepare with the optimal amount of sleep.

If your traveling beforehand, you should make sure you arrive at the venue or hotel in plenty of time before your performance. You need to allow yourself a few nights of sleep to adjust to the new environment.

3. No Medication

You don’t need to take any sleep medication to improve your sleep. You need to ensure you get quality sleep. While sleep aids which are purchased over the counter are probably going to disrupt your sleep.

4. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Even though alcohol is associated with drowsiness, this doesn’t necessarily improve your sleep quality.

You should avoid caffeine and alcohol as much as possible before your competition to ensure your sleep is not disturbed.

5. Buy a Comfortable Mattress

If you live until you’re 80 years old, the average person sleeps for 26 years. And yet, if you’re an athlete you’ll actually be sleeping a little bit more than that.

Spending this much time in bed means that you need to invest in a high-quality mattress which offers you optimal sleep.

Sleep for Athletes

Now you know how getting the right amount of sleep can make or break your performance during your competition. You can answer the question – how much sleep do athletes need?

Related: Best Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis in 2020 [Buying Guide]

Remember, it doesn’t matter what sport you do, getting quality sleep is essential to getting ahead in your game.

Do you want to learn more about how to improve your athletic performance? Check out our blog post on the importance of choosing the right shoes.