Monday, June 15, 2009

Sleep Improves Sports Performance

A study that was presented last week at SLEEP 2009 in Seattle, Wash., adds to the evidence that sleep can improve sports performance.

The ongoing study at Stanford involved five members of the women’s tennis team. They maintained their regular sleep routine for two to three weeks during the season. Then they extended their sleep to 10 hours per night for five to six weeks. Performance was measured after ever practice.

Results show that sleep extension was associated with significant performance improvements. The athletes were faster during sprinting drills; their hitting accuracy also improved.

Sleep extension also led to changes in mood. Daytime sleepiness and fatigue decreased, and energy increased.

“Many do not realize that optimal or peak performance can only occur when an athlete’s sleep and sleep habits are optimal,” study author Cheri Mah told the AASM.

Last year at SLEEP 2008 Mah presented results of a similar study involving Stanford swimmers. Sprint times were faster during sleep extension; turn times and kick strokes also improved. Swimmers even reacted faster off the blocks.

At SLEEP 2007 Mah reported that sleep extension improved basketball performance. Sprint times and free-throw shooting improved after extra sleep.

Over the years Mah also has worked with the football, golf, cross country, and track and field teams at Stanford.

“Athletes across all sports can greatly benefit from extra sleep and gain the additional competitive edge to perform at their highest level,” Mah told the AASM.

Mah also said that Stanford coaches have been paying close attention to their athletes’ involvement in the ongoing study.

“Many of the Stanford coaches are definitely more aware of the importance of sleep,” she said. “Coaches have even started to make changes to their practice and traveling schedules to allow for proper sleep habits. For many athletes and coaches, this study was the first time they truly understood how large of an impact sleep can have on their performance and results.”

Image by Marc d'Entremont

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