How Sleep Affects Athletes’ Performance

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


Find out why snoozing more will keep you on top of your game.

Improving your athletic performance may be as simple as hitting the sack earlier. Why? Just as athletes need more calories to fuel their bodies for their sport, they also need more shut-eye: Lots of physical activity puts more demand on muscles and tissues, and the body repairs itself during slumber. Sleep not only helps your body recover, it’s also a surefire performance booster. How much sleep you need exactly depends on your genes and how much physical activity you channel into your sport (most adults need seven to nine hours a night and athletes might improve their performance with up to 10 hours a night). But no matter how serious you are about your sport, sleep will boost your athletic performance in several ways.

You’ll Be Faster. Basketball players who score an extra two hours of sleep a night boost their speed by five percent—and their accuracy by nine percent. Another perk: Optimal slumber means you'll have faster reaction times and reflexes.

You’ll Increase Your Intensity. Athletes getting at least nine hours of sleep a night are more likely to do higher-intensity workouts such as weight lifting, biking, or running. That means you'll have more energy to get physical.

You’ll Strengthen Your Mental Fortitude. Training and competition can call for just as much mental strength as physical strength, and getting enough shut-eye can benefit you here too. That’s because well-rested types get a boost in alertness and mood, which are both key for bringing on your A game.

You’ll Boost Your Coordination. You can help your body better consolidate memories linked to motor skills simply by hitting the sack. In fact, sleep is vital for cementing recall linked to body movements. So whether you want to be able to repeat that perfect tennis backhand from yesterday’s practice or better hone your skills when shifting gears on your bike, getting your zzz’s may be just as important as fitting in training sessions.

Looking for the best mattress for athletes? Check out our guide!