Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a dedicated athlete who regularly devotes hours of time on practice, there’s no doubt that you’d like to improve your performance. Yet despite this universal wish, there is one thing that we can all do to give ourselves a boost, yet we generally fail to do – that magic bullet is getting enough sleep. Everybody is supposed to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night, yet somehow we all tend to choose sleep as the one thing that we’re willing to sacrifice in exchange for more time working, socializing, and yes, even working out. But it turns out that we may be doing ourselves more harm then good choosing stretching and strengthening over snoozing.
According to a recently published article on webmd.com, it is sleep that is most likely to give athletes the extra edge that they’re looking for. Dr. David Geier is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina, and he says, “Getting enough sleep is crucial for athletic performance. Just as athletes need more calories than most people when they’re training, they need more sleep too.” The need for extra rest is particularly true for young athletes, whose bodies are still growing and whose brains are programmed to need more sleep than is true for adults. Getting in the correct quality and quantity of sleep is essential for an athlete’s body’s ability to repair tired and damaged muscles and build strength. The value of a good night’s sleep to cellular repair is roughly equivalent to that of taking off a day from training.
Webmd’s website recommends that athletes in training should make a point of getting a minimum of one extra hour of sleep per night. This may mean going to bed an hour earlier or sleeping an hour later, or if neither is feasible than getting the additional rest by taking a couple of half hour naps during the course of the day. Notably, many professional sports teams have recently installed napping areas for their athletes and urge them to use them on a regular basis in order to ensure that they perform at the peak of their abilities.
A study that was performed recently at Stanford University bears out this theory. Some members of the men’s basketball team there were asked to sleep an additional two hours per night during the course of their season. The results were remarkable: players’ speed increased by approximately five percent and even the accuracy of their free throw shooting increased by nine percent. Not only did players show improved time on reflex tests, but they also reported an improvement in their mood and sense of well being.