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Think Sleep Doesn’t Make a Difference? Ask an Athlete!

You know that feeling you get when you haven’t had enough sleep, and especially when you’ve gone more than a couple days in a row without enough sleep? Well, for every person who wishes they could get more sleep there are people who claim that it makes absolutely no difference. They say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” or even go so far as to hold those who focus on adequate sleep as being somehow weak, or lazy.

If you’re one who scoffs at the notion that sleep (or a lack of sleep) can make a significant difference in performance, whether mental or physical, you might want to take a quick glance at some of the information gathered here about the world’s most elite athletes. These are men and women who have made their fortune based on their physical abilities. In some cases they appear to be nearly superhuman in their talent and skill. Talking to them about the role that sleep plays in their daily schedule is both eye-opening and enlightening.

Usain Bolt - The Olympic sprinter has become an icon for his speed as well as his personal flair. Ask him about his sleep quantity and he proudly indicates that he has strives to get between eight and ten hours of sleep every single night. “Sleep is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.”

Rafael Nadal – Nadal is a 14-time Grand Slam title holder, most recently winning the 2014 French Open. The tennis genius sleeps a minimum of eight to nine hours every night. This no doubt contributed to the fact that he’s the only male tennis player in history to win at least one Grand Slam tournament every year over ten consecutive years.

Kurt Busch – The NASCAR star holds the title on 25 different Sprint Cup races in a sport that requires extreme mental clarity, focus and concentration. His sleep schedule relies on getting at least eight and a half hours per night.

Andy Murray – Murray is a tennis genius who won Winbledon as recently as 2013, setting British hearts aflutter by being the first of his countrymen to do so for more than three quarters of a century.  Asked about his sleep habits, he says, “Rest is so important. On the days when I am not playing I try to get in and do my work early, deal with everything else that has to happen, and then get home and have a nap. I don’t normally have any trouble sleeping. I sleep well. You need rest to make sure you recover properly.” His sleep regimen? He’s gone so far as to sleep for twelve hours per night.

Earl Watson – The NBA veteran played for over thirteen years, making a name for himself with his over-the-top play. Watson’s way of making sure that he got enough sleep depended upon daytime naps and eight hours per night of sleep. “Napping is a good way to catch up on rest. They are a must because the emotions from a game can keep you up until 3:00 in the morning. Sleep is big.”

Maria Sharapova – The 27-year old tennis star has had youth on her side as she’s won her 32 WTA singles titles, but she still values her sleep above all. Talking about her preparations for a big match she says, “The only thing I do is sleeping longer. I love to sleep. It’s my hobby.”

Kevin Durant – Durant was MVP of the NBA, and when asked about his secret to success he ranks getting enough sleep high on his list. “I’m up pretty early most days so I can fit in two or three workouts. Every day is a new chance to challenge myself and push my training to the next level, but I can only do that if I keep my energy up. Sleep is an important part of that.” Durant strives to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep each and every night.

Michelle Wie – The young golfer took the world by storm when she won the USGA amateur championship at the age of 10. She was no flash in the pan, following that win with the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open title. Asked about sleep and she can’t sing its praises enough. “I slept for 16 hours once. Early in the week of the Sony Open I went to bed at 9 p.m. and woke up at 1 the next day. When I can I’ll sleep more than twelve hours and I don’t feel very good if I get less than ten.”

Steve Nash – Ten hours of sleep sounds good to the two-time NBA MVP. “Diet and sleep are probably the two biggest tools to recover – definitely something that’s hard to do when you’re traveling a lot. You have a busy, stressful schedule, but it’s something you have to make a priority.” He also enjoys good nap before games.

Derrick Rose – Another NBA MVP, Rose echoes Nash on the topic of naps, and has a habit of taking a three hour nap prior to any game that’s played at night. “Being healthy is a complete lifestyle for me. It allows my brain to function at a very high degree so I can comprehend all the new things that are thrown at me. It also allows me to sleep well so that I am rested when I need to perform.”

LeBron James – King James, as he’s often called, is one of the greatest basketball players of all times. He’s won the NBA’s MVP award four times. Ask him about how he sleeps and you’ll hear that the big man insists on getting twelve hours of sleep per night.

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