Watching competitive athletes at play – whether it’s Wimbledon, the World Cup, or the Super Bowl – do you ever wonder how these athletes prepare to perform at their best? How do elite athletes get an edge over the competition? Talent and skill help. So does sleep.
Sleep: an athlete’s ‘secret’ weapon
Research shows that getting more sleep can lead to better performance. Sleep scientists at Stanford University have conducted extensive research on the effects of sleep on athletic performance. Their results of studies with collegiate athletes show that extending sleep duration leads to significant improvements to athletic performance.
Extending sleep improves performance
A study of college tennis players demonstrates the power of sleep on performance. Players had their performance measured on their normal routine and then were asked to extend sleep to 10 hours per night. (Unlike most of us, college tennis players have no problems sleeping this long!) The results were striking. Players who received additional sleep displayed:
- Better hitting accuracy, including more valid serves
- Faster sprint times
- Better hitting depth drill performance
- More vigor, less fatigue
The players’ improvement in serves was dramatic, a whopping 23 percent boost in accuracy. That’s a difference that could easily provide the extra juice for a grand slam win, or a real edge at the local tennis club.
Broad improvements from more sleep
These results are not specific to tennis. Stanford scientists, led by sleep researcher Cheri Mah, found dramatic improvements to athletic performance among college athletes in a number of sports, including basketball, swimming, and football. Athletes were faster, stronger, with greater accuracy and quicker reaction times after extending their sleep.
Good news for the rest of us
Most of us aren’t competitive athletes. Still, it’s pretty clear that we all can benefit in our daily lives and performance from more and better sleep. The good news is that better sleep is within your reach.
Now, if only serving up aces were that easy.