Importance of Sleep for Athletes

 June 7, 2022|  Dona Maria

For both athletes and non-athletes, sleep is essential to feel restored and rejuvenated for a healthy mind and body. Regular exercise increases longevity, reduces cardiovascular risks and can also help you sleep better. The amount of rest your body requires after physical activity can vary from person to person. Athletes, in particular, though require enough sleep in order to train better and keep improving or maintaining their overall performance.

Why Sleep Matters

A study by Stanford University showed that when basketball players increased their nightly sleep to 10 hours, their performance improved in both half-court and full-court sprints, shooting improved by at least 9% and the athletes experienced improved physical and mental wellbeing with increased amount of sleep each night. Here are some of the physical benefits of sleep.

Improves Heart Health: Proper sleep and adequate rest ensures proper healing of the cardiac muscles and maintains output required for strenuous cardiac exercises. 8 to 9 hours of rest reduces the risk of developing stroke, emboli and other issues related to the circulatory system.

Reduces Inflammation: While resting, your immune system reduces inflammation and its after-effects on your body. High inflammation can have a direct impact on sports performance by reducing heart health and slowing down recovery, which may in turn increase the risk of physical injuries. Try hitting your target sleep duration each night.

Controls Mental Health: Adequate sleep improves your cognitive abilities, uplift your mood and reduce the chances of mental health issues. Sleep helps release happy, feel-good hormones, reducing the risk of physical issues such as headaches, myalgia and muscle soreness that will improve your overall daily efficiency.

Poor quality and quantity of sleep has several negative effects on your body and mind. Sleep deprived athletes will feel exhausted more frequently, experience decreased reaction time, have poor decision-making abilities and will be at a higher risk for injury, illness and immunosuppression.

Hours of Sleep

While non-athletes require anywhere between 7 and 8 hours of sleep, research shows that athletes generally need up to 8.3 hours of sleep to feel rested. Constant physical activity drains your energy, and sleeping adequately helps with efficient recovery. Sports science studies conclude getting more than 8 hours of sleep per night reduces the risks of sustaining sports injuries. You can also take an afternoon nap to meet your daily recovery requirements.

Sleep Hygiene for Athletes

Practicing sleep hygiene is important for everyone, whether you’re an athlete or not. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Creating the right environment: Your sleeping space should be cool and dark with little to no noise and should only be used for rest and recovery.

No alcohol or caffeine before bedtime: Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can interrupt sleep and affect its overall quality, consequently impacting your overall health.

Have a wind-down routine: Reading, taking a bath or meditating can help calm your mind and promote sounder overall sleep.

No devices at bedtime: Blue light emitted from electronic devices can affect your natural circadian rhythm, reducing the quality of your night-time sleep.

Avoid overtraining: Keep your training schedule consistent to reduce the risk of overexertion.

Reduce stressors: Mental stressors can affect both sleep quality and overall athletic performance. Try to keep your mind free from chatter.

Keep naps brief: If you do need to nap during the day to regroup your energy, try to keep them to an hour or shorter.

There you have it—sleep is an essential component in your overall health. It controls stamina, endurance and your ability to cope with stressors. With a proper sleep routine and high-quality nutrition, you can smash your goals and live your best life.

Looking to improve your athletic performance with the right meal prep? Start Fueling.


 June 7, 2022 | Dona Maria
Dona Maria

About the Author

Dona Maria Mesmar is the Nutrition Manager for Kcal Brands. She develops nutrition and diet programs for athletes and provides them with one on one nutrition consultation to help them achieve their body composition goals. She is also a certified fitness instructor, published nutrition writer and has appeared numerous times on national live TV, where she has provided expert advice on nutrition and healthy eating.

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