4 ways in which sleep can affect an athlete

Health and Sports
Athlete about to begin a race

You win some, you lose some but when an athlete loses sleep he has more to lose than gain. If a good night’s kip makes all the difference to your performance the next day, for an athlete it’s of next-level importance. And if by happy chance you happen to be an athlete, you are exactly where you’re meant to be. Read on to know the 4 ways in which sleep affects athletic performance.


Less sleep = More reaction time

Plays happen in the blink of an eye and athletes can’t afford to react a fraction of second later. Lack of zzzs reduces reaction time. Surprisingly, being awake for 22 hours straight can slow down your reaction time more than chugging four drinks.[1] Yes, drinking and sleep are as different as chalk and cheese. But if an athlete can’t be expected to perform his best after knocking back a few drinks, how will he bring his A-game without a good night’s sleep?


Less sleep = More injury rate

The fatigue beast creeps up on people who are sleep deprived and affects their body’s immune system making them more prone to illnesses. For athletes, who need to be on top of their health, this can be career crushing. Also, less sleep keeps the body from regenerating cells and repairing from backbreaking workouts and daily activities. Over time, the illnesses in cahoots with injuries and slower recovery time can keep an athlete off the field and on the bench.


More sleep = Better accuracy

A study was conducted at Stanford where the university’s men’s basketball team, after four weeks of normal sleep, went through a seven-week extension period. In this time the players got as much night time shut-eye as possible, the target being ten hours.[2] The results showed a faster-timed sprint and better shooting accuracy after the sleep-extension. This drives the nail deeper that optimal sleep is key for an athlete to reach his peak performance.


More sleep = Fewer mental errors

Shortened snooze time impedes motivation, focus, memory and learning, hence making judgement go awry. Sleep is needed to sandpaper the brain. Without it, the brain struggles to consolidate memory and input knowledge. Past research has shown that skimping on sleep impairs the frontal lobe of the brain and has unfavourable effects on decision making. This can rock an athlete’s boat worse than a catastrophic Tsunami.


  1. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/how-awake-are-you
  2. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/34/7/943/2596050?searchresult=1


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