Five Sleep Tips To Improve An Athlete’s Performance

By Bri Groves, Swimming World College Intern.

Sleep is a popular area for athletes to see improvements in performance with relatively low effort. To examine the affects that increasing sleep can have on your swimming, check out this research.

In a study completed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, researchers found that extending average sleeping hours to 10 per day assisted Stanford swimmers in improving their 15-meter sprint times, reaction times, turn times and kick strokes. Athletes also reported qualitative improvements in alertness and mood.

The athletic performance of swimmers was assessed regularly after each scheduled swim practice. Following periods of sleep, the average athlete reacted 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, swam a 15-meter meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds, and increased total kick cadence by 5.0 kicks.

This study also monitored weekly changes in mood and daytime sleepiness. With extra rest, athletes reported that daytime sleepiness decreased. These athletes also exhibited mood improvements traditionally associated with higher levels of rest, including higher ratings of vigor and lower fatigue.

Lead author Cheri Mah, of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, tells us more about the importance of sleeping and the detriments of sleep deprivation:

“Typically, many athletes accumulate large sleeping debt by not obtaining their individual sleep requirement each night, which can have detrimental effects on cognitive function, mood, and reaction time. These negative effects can be minimized or eliminated by prioritizing sleep in general and, more specifically, obtaining extra sleep to reduce one’s sleep debt.”

Although this research was specifically studying collegiate swimmers, it is supported by similar studies across and data from different sports. This correlation suggests that athletes from a range of different sports can benefit from extra periods of rest, and gain an additional competitive edge to improve personal perform.

The study offers several pointers to help athletes improve performance by sleeping more:

1. Make sleep a part of your scheduled training regimen.

Scheduling sleeping into your daily routine is a great way to ensure you get enough rest at the right times. During regular training, strive for a minimum of seven hours. Leading up to larger meets and championship season, try to increase this amount for an extra performance boost.

2. Maintain a regular schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day.

Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps reduce the amount of time that it takes to fall asleep and being on a schedule has been correlated with deeper levels of sleep. To make the most out of your z’s, try to go to bed and wake up on a schedule.

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