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How Sleep Habits of Pro Athletes Affect Their Performance
Do you like to sleep? Shannon Miller, the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history, was once caught taking a power nap while doing a split. She knew that power nap could spell victory for her.
Miller is not the only athlete to pay attention to her sleep habits. Most athletes know that sleep can have a major impact on their performance, and they are serious about how they sleep!
Performing well is important– no matter your profession– and being well-rested is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure you perform at your peak.
To perform like an elite athlete, you need to sleep like an elite athlete; and that starts with the following:
- Take control of your grogginess
- Improve your sleep quality
- Perform better at work and in life
What Are the Sleep Habits of Pro Athletes?
Tom Brady - American football quarterback and five-time Super Bowl champion.
Always makes sure he has a comfortable mattress wherever he goes.
Lindsey Vonn - Olympic skier and gold medalist.
Sleeps 10 hours a night and takes naps every day.
Mo Farah - Olympic runner.
Learned from Kenyan runners to put his sleep schedule ahead of any other activity while in training. After using this technique, he won gold.
Start Sleeping Like A Pro Athlete
If you want to sleep like a pro athlete, here are five things that can affect your sleep quality:
Light influences our sleep during many phases of our sleep cycle.
In the morning, natural light helps our body wake up and prepare for the activities of the day. At night, darkness signals our brain to produce melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep.
Professional athletes make sure they have a lot of sunlight in the morning, to fully awaken their bodies. At night, they turn off their screens at least an hour before going to bed.
The darkness of your room can affect the quality of your sleep, so pro athletes make sure to keep their bedrooms dark.
If you feel your bedroom is not dark enough, you may want to look into blackout curtains or even consider using a sleep mask to block out any sleep-disrupting light.
Your body naturally cools down as you fall asleep. If the temperature is too warm, your body won’t be able to relax and slow down, and can cause you to be uncomfortable or wake up often.
“Set your bedroom temperature to a maximum of 69 degrees Fahrenheit (that equals to 20.5 degrees Celsius),” says Drew Little, C.S.C.S., a performance specialist at Michael Johnson Performance, a state of the art training facility in Texas. (3)
Your internal clock tells you when to fall asleep and when to wake. When it’s well-regulated, you are less likely to experience insomnia or night waking.
You need at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep for your body to produce testosterone and human growth hormone (GHG) – both the hormones needed to help build muscle mass and repair cells. (1)
Pro athletes try to have the same wake time and bedtime every day. They know it only takes two days of breaking your routine to throw off your entire sleep pattern.
Sleep and athletic performance research scientist Cheri Mah says, “It can be helpful to set a daily alarm on your phone to help remind you of your targeted bedtime. For example, set the alarm one hour before bedtime, which gives you 30 minutes to wrap things up for the day, and 30 minutes to wind down before bed.” (2)
You can bet pro athletes worry about the “big game” or competition in the days (and nights) leading up to it.
Sports psychologists often tell pro athletes to keep a notebook by the bed, and if they find themselves worrying, to write down the worry.
The hope is that by writing down the thought, you will take it out of your mind until you wake in the morning.
To get the best night’s sleep, you need to feel comfortable. At pro athletic training facilities, sleep experts analyze everything.
Dr. Mark Rosekind recommends cotton sheets; bigger beds; and even hypoallergenic pillows for some pro athletes.
Manchester City’s soccer team even has wallpaper designed to help the players sleep- no detail is too small when it comes to sleeping well!
If you feel uncomfortable at night or wake up feeling stiff, your mattress or pillows may be wrong for your sleep style.
It’s not always an expensive fix. For example, adding or removing a pillow top can change the firmness of your mattress. If you sleep on your side, try a fluffier pillow. If you’re a back-sleeper, use a flat one.
Why Do You Need Sleep to Perform Well?
While sleeping, your mind and body recover from the activity and stress of your day. You cannot shortchange this system. (1)
But how much sleep do you need?
Adults generally need 8 hours of sleep, but some people need more. For example, three-time NBA champion LeBron James gets at least 12 hours a night!
In a recent study, 11 basketball players increased their sleep time to 10 hours per night. (4)
After sleeping longer, they were able to sprint 0.7 seconds faster, make 9% more free throws, make 9.2% more three-pointers, and they felt much better about their overall performance.
Go for the Gold
Science proves that a good night's sleep is a top predictor of a person's performance– athlete or not– and it's not that hard to improve your sleep.
By implementing the quick fixes discussed, you can see results in your life. You will feel better, react more quickly, and think more clearly.
By taking control of your sleep, you take control of your life.
Like athletes, you have make-or-break moments in life. Think of the results you will get under the power of a good night's sleep!
(1) Pietrangelo, Ann and Watson, Stephanie. “The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body." Healthline, www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body#1. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
(2) “10 Secret Tips to Help You Sleep Like a Top Athlete." Six Steps to Sleep, www.sixstepstosleep.com/10-secret-tips-sleep-top-athlete/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
(3) Smith, Brittany. “9 Things Every Athlete Needs to Know About Sleep and Recovery” Men's Journal, www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/9-things-every-athlete-needs-know-about-sleep-and-recovery/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2018.
(4) Mah, Cheri MD et al. "The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players." PubMed, 1 Jul. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/