“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” -Vince Lombardi

Usain Bolt is well aware of the necessity for sleep as a means of ensuring peak performance as an athlete. In fact, he believes that sleep is the way that the body absorbs his training efforts. The Olympian- who accomplished acts of seemingly superhuman prowess at the 2008 Beijing Olympics- is the first person to hold both the 100m and 200m world records. Four years later, he became the first man in history to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting.

While other professional athletes might consider their bodies to be well-oiled machines capable of the most mind-bending feats, even the most extraordinary among us are human; we each require adequate rest in order to perform at an optimal level.

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Athletes Who Hit the Sack Hard

You don’t have enough time in your hectic schedule to log eight hours of sleep each night? Here’s a list of pro-athletes who have made sleep a priority for its powerful, recharging capabilities:

  • Grand Slam-winning tennis player, Roger Federer, gets 11 to 12 hours of sleep per night!
  • Cleveland Cavaliers’ basketball star, Lebron James, makes sure he clocks in at 12 hours of shut-eye.
  • Olympic Gold Medalist Skier, Lindsey Vonn, sleeps every chance she gets when she’s not on the slopes!
  • Kevin Durant, voted MVP by the NBA, reports snoozing for a solid, eight hours each night.

While it may be hard to imagine pro-athletes hitting the sack early in addition to workouts, practice, and actual time on the playing field, these superstars might have just found the ticket to maximizing their athletic abilities.

A Graphic Example

In case you wondered just how seriously professional athletes take their sleep, this infographic from FastCoDesign.com illustrates the point that sleep is for champions. Each of these performers sings the praises of sufficient shut-eye and the outcomes that ensue. Hitting accuracy is improved, decision making abilities and alertness are enhanced, and endurance increases. Additionally, in athletes, more sleep has resulted in faster times and increased strength! Not surprisingly, many pro athletes combine nightly sleep with performance-boosting naps to take full advantage of these amazing sleep benefits.

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Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory discovered through her studies of college athletes that sleep is an essential training tool for athletes of any kind. Basketball players, tennis players, and swimmers experienced improvements including improved performance and mood, sharpened alertness, and even improved sports performance. Mah’s research is some of the first to specifically look at the impact of extra hours of sleep on athletic performance and suggests that sleep is a significant factor in achieving peak athletic performance.

The Link Between Performance and Rest

According to Fatigue Science, “even a single all-nighter can reduce reaction times by more than 300%, not to mention recovering takes several days. Studies have shown even a surprisingly low level of fatigue can impair reaction times as much, if not more, than being legally drunk.”

The benefits of being well rested are critical to an athlete’s performance; without sleep, you run the risk of losing your edge. Their Human Performance Model highlights five domains by which to prepare athletes for their event- nutrition, hydration, conditioning, mental preparation, and sleep. When a contender is sufficiently rested, they note fewer injuries, increased stamina, better performance time, and and increased longevity in their sport.

Aspiring athletes can reap the same benefits; a recent study of teenage athletes shows a 68 percent decreased risk of sports injuries in those who slept eight or more hours per night. With sufficient slumber, there is also likely to be a higher frustration tolerance when engaging in any new challenge. While athletic performance is one area that can benefit from better sleep, adequate shut eye also helps to maintain resilience against teenage depression and anxiety.

Sleep As Good Medicine

Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer of the Dallas Mavericks, asserts, “If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it. Sleep does all of those things.”

Whether you have Olympic aspirations or simply want to destroy your personal best on the treadmill at the gym, it is essential to give your body an opportunity to rebound. Making sleep a top priority isn’t just a way to go for the gold- it’s a way for us all to feel better, live better, and perform at our best.

 

How has prioritizing sleep improved your performance?