Sleep is the #1 Performance Enhancement "Drug"; that’s Free and Healthy yet athletes overlook it.
It’s no secret that lack of sleep can have negative consequences. Professional athletes bounce around the country, leaving late, arriving early, having to play the next day- its no surprise sleep management is a huge issue for athletes and overall teams success. Extensive research has shown the impact of sleep debt has on cognitive function, mood and physical performance.
While things such as physical training and nutrition are part of an athlete’s daily regimen, competitive athletes at all levels typically do not focus on optimizing their sleep and recovery.
Innately many athletes and coaches know that naps and quality sleep are important, but it is often the first to be sacrificed. Healthy and sufficient sleep hasn’t had the same focus as other areas of training for peak performance.
Prevailing findings indicate that following a night of sleep loss, a mid-day nap may enhance or restore several exercise and cognitive performance aspects, while concomitantly provide benefits on athletes' perceptual responses. Most, but not all, findings suggest that short-term naps (20-30 min) appear to provide superior benefits to the athletes. If you take longer naps – 45 minutes or more – you can go into deeper stages of sleep, and when you wake up, you may experience sleep inertia, where you feel more sluggish and worn down.
Instead of just focusing on the effects of lack of sleep; its more intriguing to explore Sleep Extension as an competitive advantage. Having athletes go from 5-6 hours of sleep to healthy ranges of 8-10 hours can be a bit of challenge given all the factors of being a professional athlete. However, below I have given some peer reviewed studies to support the benefits of Sleep Extension.
Sleep Extension can positively affect an athletes:
Increased free throw accuracy
Increased 3-point accuracy
Decreased Injury Risk
How To Optimize Quality Sleep when Traveling:
Prioritize sleep as a part of your regular training regimen.
Drink plenty of water Pre & during flight
Compression Tights on flights
Shift thermostat to 60°- 67°F once you arrive at hotel
Drink a chamomile tea after dinner
Turn off electronics 30 minutes before bed
Meditate/Stretching (foam roller)
Wear Eye Mask to bed
Start viewing sleep as a performance booster rather than a chore, and the effort it takes to sleep well will seem like a smart investment.