Can Better Sleep Improve Athletic Performance?

For both non-athletes and athletes, sleep is an essential component to overall health and wellbeing.  Everyone needs sleep in order to feel restored and function their best the next day. However, sleep is especially important for athletes, and an often overlooked component of training and recovery. Better sleep can improve accuracy, speed, reaction time, and recovery in athletes. 

How Does Sleep Affect Athletic Performance? 

Both increased quantity and quality of sleep helps athletes improve their overall performance. Researchers examined the sleep patterns and output of players on Stanford University’s men’s basketball team. They found that when players increased their sleep from seven hours to eight and a half over a five to seven week period, their performance improved.

Conditioning and proper nutrition contribute to athletic performance, but prioritizing sleep gives athletes another edge. Here are some of the ways sleep affects performance: 

  • Speed

Optimal sleep boosts reaction time and reflexes. The basketball players in the Stanford study cut their spring times from 16.2 seconds to 15.5 seconds. 

  • Endurance 

Athletes getting at least nine hours of sleep a night are more likely to perform better on endurance workouts such as biking or running. 

  • Motivation 

Training isn’t just about physical strength, it’s also about mental strength. Getting adequate sleep boosts mood and alertness, which are key for bringing your A game. 

  • Accuracy 

When you enter deep-sleep (REM), your body consolidates memories linked to motor skills. With better sleep, it’ll be easier for an athlete to repeat a good free throw or tennis swing. 

4 Sleep Tips for Athletes 

If you’re having trouble sleeping, the cause could be a variety of reasons. However, there are certain aspects that you have control over that will positively impact your sleep. Here are four steps athletes can follow for better sleep:

  1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule
  2. Avoid caffeine later in the day
  3. Limit alcohol consumption close to bedtime
  4. Prepare your sleep environment 

Getting better sleep takes dedication and discipline, just like athletic training. Even going to bed an hour early every night can drastically enhance athletic performance. For more tips on sleep, read our blog here

Start Sleeping Better

If you’re concerned about your quality of sleep, schedule a visit to be evaluated at Whitney Sleep Center. We encourage you to set up an appointment at one of our locations. Get better sleep: contact us today at or visit our website.