Do Athletes Need More Sleep?

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Professional athletes require a ton of calories for the energy to compete — Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps estimates that he would sometimes consume between 8,000 and 10,000 calories a day (for reference, the recommended daily intake for a moderately active 30-year-old man is 2,600 calories).

It’s a given that athletes need more food. But do they also need more sleep?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the answer is likely yes. “Lots of physical activity puts more demand on muscles and tissues, and the body repairs itself during slumber,” their website explains. “Sleep not only helps your body recover, it’s also a surefire performance booster.”

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A study of elite soccer players concluded that “sleep deprivation may be detrimental to the outcome of the recovery process after a match, resulting in impaired muscle glycogen repletion, impaired muscle damage repair, alterations in cognitive function and an increase in mental fatigue.”

Studies have also shown that extra sleep can improve athletic performance. One small study found that college basketball players improved their sprint times and shooting accuracy when they got more sleep each night.

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Another found that many athletes experience sleep disturbance the night before a game or competition, which negatively affects their moods (though may not necessarily impact their performance). A review of existing research concluded that sleep deprivation harms athletic performance, whereas sleep extension improves it.

As such, experts believe that coaches and trainers should ensure that the athletes they work with are getting enough rest as part of their training schedules, through sleeping for a reasonable time at night or adding in a daytime nap.

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“Athletes have been found to demonstrate poor self-assessment of their sleep duration and quality,” wrote Dr. Andrew Watson, a sports medicine specialist. “In light of this, athletes may require more careful monitoring and intervention to identify individuals at risk and promote proper sleep to improve both performance and overall health.”

[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]

Featured image: VGstockstudio/Shuterstock


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Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.