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Sleep and athletic performance: yes, you may hit the snooze button!

Forget all the myths about oversleeping. Contrary to the likes of the Wall Street Journal with reports about rethinking sleep, extra sleep is good for you. If you’re an athlete and partake in a considerable amount of training each week, or you train people that do, you may be surprised to know that performance can be markedly improved just by sleeping more.

At Stanford University, basketball players took part in a trial where they spent five to seven weeks sleeping for a massive 10 hours a night – or more. Previously they had been sleeping between six to nine hours. The findings certainly raised eyebrows, not least with the team coaches! The basketball players’ athletic performance shot up significantly. What’s more, their muscles were able to produce faster sprint-times and their shooting accuracy increased. Overall physical and mental well-being also generally improved during games and practice.

sleep and athletic performance - Sage Institute of FitnessWhen you understand the activities that take place when we sleep, the results are less surprising. Harvard Medical School explains that tissue repair, protein synthesis, muscle growth and growth hormone release occur predominantly (or in some cases, only) while we sleep. As athletes stress their muscles more than the average office worker, they consequently need more sleep to repair.

Contrary to some people’s belief that too much sleep slows you down, the added hour or hours past the traditional “eight-hour sleep” mark benefits the athlete substantially. According to the University of Pennsylvania sleep researcher Dr Sigrid Veasey, “You can never get ‘too much’ sleep… When you have had enough sleep you will wake up. ”

Bonus: added sleep on top of the regular eight hours will improve your cognitive function and make you more alert. Now we can all be better at sport and smarter!

Why did so many believe that seven hours sleep was ideal?
In 2002 there was a study published involving over one million people. Scientists concluded that those who slept for only seven hours a night lived longer than those who slept more. In fact, in this study it was identified that there could be detrimental effects to sleeping longer, such as obesity, diabetes or even cardiovascular disease.

Fitness Business Melbourne - sage institute of fitnessAs with all scientific research, however, it is important to look at the finer details. In this case, while the study was certainly a large one and sounded impressive, it was an uncontrolled study.  The outcomes about sleep were found retrospectively. Plausibly therefore, some people in the study may have had illnesses that caused them to sleep longer – not the other way around.

How does this relate to you and your clients?
Keep in mind that everyone is different. What your body needs may be entirely different to what other bodies need. If you’re highly active, the current scientific belief is that you probably need at least eight hours’ sleep a night. If you get a little extra, you’ll be doing your body – and your athletic performance – a favour.

Finally, if you need any more convincing, it’s reported that both Roger Federer and Lebron James prefer 12 hours’ sleep a night. And they’re not doing too badly now, are they…?

Sage Institute of Fitness – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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