Sleep in athletes Regeneration and Human Performance

Sleep in athletes

How Much Sleep do Athletes Need ?

Sleep for athletes can even be 9-12 hours, the body usually cycles in 1 and a half-hour increments.

A Comprehensive Strategy for Long-Term Athlete Development Charles H. Samuels, MD, CCFP, DABSM & Brent N. Alexander, M.Sc Post-exercise recovery and regeneration (PERR.  It is as important as the training regimen to the complex adaptive process of increasing athletic performance. 1 The foundation of PERR is sleep. Sleep constitutes the passive recovery, regeneration and rest process.


Sleep in athletes, Recovery, and Regeneration

The role of sleep and the importance of sleep in Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is the focus of this section.

Sleep for athletes factors have also been shown to have a direct effect on metabolic processes including

  • energy
  • balance
  • appetite
  • weight control.

More importantly, sleep extension and circadian rhythm research in athlete populations. It also has provided objective evidence that confirms the significance of these relationships and the importance of considering sleep in LTAD.


The relationship of sleep to PERR and performance can be viewed in a structured fashion.

  1. length (total sleep requirement: hours/night)
  2. quality (sleep disorders, environmental disturbance or fragmentation)
  3. phase (circadian timing of sleep)

Are the key factors affecting the overall recuperative outcome of the sleep state?

These three parameters of sleep affect an athlete’s ability to

  1. Train
  2. Maximize the training response
  3. Recover

Most noteworthy, these parameters change over the course of an athlete’s career and life. Therefore, the athlete, parents, and coaches have to have strategies to adjust to the changing sleep requirements throughout the athlete’s career.

Finally, attending to the importance of sleep will


  1. Reduce the risk of overtraining/under-recovery
  2. enhance resistance to illness
  3. improve recovery from injury.

There are great interest and debate over the optimum amount of sleep (sleep length) required for humans to recuperate and function normally.

While sleep requirements change over the course of an individual’s life (figures 1 and 2). Figures 1 and 2 describe the general patterns of changes in sleep requirements and composition (sleep stages). Over the course of a lifetime and provide sleep researchers/educators with the information to guide the advice provided for the athletes. It is a safe assumption that based on training demands the sleep requirement for an athlete would be greater than for the average individual who is not an athlete.

Therefore, establishing guidelines for athletes at various stages in their career development for sleep requirement, providing tools to assess sleep patterns/routines accurately and implementing strategies to achieve the recommended amount of sleep are important practical interventions.

It is very important for athletes, parents, and coaches to be aware of the fact that at the time in life (12–18 years old) when adolescents require the most amount of sleep (9–10 hours per night) they tend to develop a delay in their biological clock (circadian sleep phase) that reduces the amount of time available for sleep. This results in a chronic sleep restriction during a time of increasing training demands, growth and development.

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Sleep and athletic performance?

Getting extra sleep over an extended period improves athletic performance, mood, and alertness.

This is according to the research abstract. While it will be presented on June 9 at the SLEEP 2008 22nd Annual Meeting of the  (APSS) in Baltimore, Md.

Mah Suggests the following

  1. Make sleep a part of your regular training regimen.
  2. Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to cut your sleep debt before a competition.
  3. Maintain a low sleep debt by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to eight hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults).
  4. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day.
  5. Take brief naps to obtain more sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.

Also, participants in this ongoing study were five healthy students. From the Stanford University men’s and women’s swimming teams.

First of all, for the first two weeks of the study, the students maintained their usual sleep-wake pattern. Also, the athletes then extended their sleep to 10 hours per day for six to seven weeks.

Athletic performance was assessed after each regularly scheduled swim practice.

Hence after obtaining extra sleep, athletes swam a 15-meter meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds and increased kick strokes by 5.0 kicks.

“These results begin to elucidate the importance of sleep on athletic performance. More specifically, how sleep is a significant factor in achieving peak athletic performance,” said lead author Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory.


“While this study focuses specifically on collegiate swimmers. It agrees with data from my other studies of different sports. It suggests that athletes across all sports can greatly benefit from extra sleep and gain the extra competitive edge to perform at their highest level.”


Full Article can be read here


Sports Sleeping: Lack of sleep can affect performance

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...
Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See Wikipedia: Sleep deprivation). Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template talk: Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Regeneration

Lack of sleep can reduce an athlete’s cardiovascular performance by 11%. These are the measures to take…


As a conditioning coach. I am often faced with young athletes who are struggling to balance the pressures of work or study with a sports career. It is not unusual for them to feel that there are just not enough hours in the day to fit everything in.


Unfortunately, the first thing to suffer is usually their sleep. Late-night revision sessions, coupled with early morning practices can result in athletes trying to survive on as little as 4-6 hours of sleep per night.


If this pattern is extended for a number of weeks. You will very soon be dealing with an athlete who is


  • burnt out
  • lacking motivation
  • struggling to find form in his/her chosen event.


While In order to be able to help an athlete who may have poor sleeping patterns. And it is important to understand what happens during sleep. How can this affect athletic performance? and provide some simple guidelines to help such athletes achieve a good night’s sleep.


Fortunately, experts from Wheaton College in the US have provided some basic information that will help coaches and trainers gain a better understanding of what happens during sleep and how it can affect performance.


The US study found that athletes have an increased need for total sleep time, and slow-wave sleep was found to be the most beneficial type. According to Peter Walters, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Wheaton College, sleep can be broken down into five stages.

Just before you fall asleep, beta brain waves (the type of brain waves that occurs when you are awake) are replaced by alpha waves. Alpha waves indicate a state of being awake yet deeply relaxed. Once you have been in this state for between 5-20 minutes, the mind and body will be ready for the first stage of sleep.

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When is the best time to Sleep

By Fredrik Pemji


So many articles have been written about the fact that adults need about 8 hours of sleep per night. The fact is, that some people may need more or less. The real question should be, WHEN are you getting your sleep athletes!

You can get a full 8 hours of sleep but if you went to bed at 2 am and woke up at 10 am, you will not be in tip-top shape. And Definitely not compared to if you slept at 10 pm and woke up at 6 am. It’s crucial to have not only the right amount of sleep but to also sleep at the right time.

The best time range to go to bed to help you wake up in great shape is between 9 pm and midnight. This is for adults 18-45 years of age. Older people tend to sleep earlier than that due to their age and their lack of energy, which is normal. If you go to sleep later than midnight, even with the right amount of hours you need, it is still not optimal sleep for you.

Sleeping is filled with mysteries even to this day. We don’t really know truly why we sleep exactly, but it seems that when the sun goes down, we should go to sleep as well! Let me tell you, I’ve dealt with insomnia for years. I’ve had extremely odd sleeping patterns.

I would go to bed at 1-2 am because I was working so much, and even with adequate sleeping hours, I was always tired and out of energy throughout the day. So I changed my pattern. I decided to go to bed earlier, usually between 10 pm and midnight, and by 6 am, I would wake up on my own. That’s right, I don’t need an alarm clock anymore  Waking up when you want to wake up and not because you have to is a great feeling! To do that, you need to sleep at the right time.



To help you get adequate sleep

  • don’t do anything too physically or mentally strenuous at least 2 hours before your bedtime.
  • don’t eat a relatively large meal close to your sleep time.
  • Make sure you use your bed to sleep and not to watch TV.

This will train your mind to associate your bedroom with sleep and nothing else. Leave your stress and worries at your bedroom door! Clear your thoughts and just enjoy your sleep. Try this and you will be surprised how early your eyes will open on their own. Also, you will notice an increase in your energy throughout your day, and while it’s normal to get tired by 8-9 pm, that will only make it that much easier to fall asleep by 10-11 pm.

To fix your sleeping cycle. And either try to not sleep an entire night so that by early evening you will be so tired you will sleep earlier, or do an activity that requires a lot of mental or physical energy so that you will be drained and needy of sleep to regenerate. Also just like that, you can fix your sleeping issues. If I can do it, and I was a BIG insomniac for years, then you can too. When it comes to sleep, keep in mind that timing is everything.


Do you find that your body needs more sleep after workout days? from Fitness


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