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Sleeping well and sports performance

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As anyone involved in sports knows, getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to an athlete’s performance.

Making sure you get the right amount of shuteye, the right kind of shuteye, and the right environment to sleep in, can make a big difference on the field, the court or in the pool.

High school athletes in particular often don’t get enough sleep because of the demands of academics work, sports and extracurricular activities. With energy and focus already adversely affected by inadequate sleep, continued activity in sports even further depletes energy, fluids and breaks down muscle.

The quality of an athlete’s sleep is essential, especially REM sleep, which provides energy to the brain AND the body. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to repair itself, including memory, consolidate memory, and release hormones for muscle recovery, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Experts say from six to nine hours of sleep a night is average, but athletes often need more. Results from a study in the journal SLEEP show declines in split-second decision making after inadequate sleep. The results also showed that those who slept well demonstrated an increase in accuracy.

Researchers have revealed that a lack of sleep increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol and also decreases production of glycogen and carbohydrates needed for energy during physical activity, adds the Foundation. This can result in increased fatigue, low energy, and poor focus during competition and could slow recovery.

Conversely, a good night’s sleep pays off in increased sports performance, says WebMD, which notes a Stanford University basketball team study in which players slept an extra two hours every night. They increased their speed by five percent, made nine percent more accurate free throws and had faster reflexes.

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