The Magical Impact & Importance of Sleep for Athletes

Last Updated on May 10, 2022 by uthxlr8

Sleep is one of the most crucial and key driving factors in an athlete’s life. The significant impact that sleep has on the athlete’s performance makes it an inevitable component of every athlete’s success. But how does sleep impact? And the importance that sleep holds for an athlete is essential to be known.

In this blog, we will understand what factors make sleep an important part of an athlete’s routine.

Why is sleep important to athletes?

  • Sleep for athletes is important because it has a physical, mental, and emotional impact on the athlete’s body.
  • More than ever, the role of sleep in an athlete’s training and performance is increased as research has proved various aspects that contribute to getting the most out of every game with good sleep.
  • A few key areas that shed light on the importance of sleep for athletes are recovery from training and game, cognitive function enhancement, reducing fatigue, staying mentally healthy, and having an improved mood before every game.

How does sleep affect mental health?

  • An athlete’s mental state is as important as his/her physical state. Sleep plays an essential role in retaining and consolidating memories.
  • While athletes train themselves for various skills and techniques, deep sleep helps to recollect these memories, retain, and apply them in the future when necessary. Therefore, it results in enhanced performance.
  • Furthermore, sleep affects our moods too. Lack of sleep frequently causes irritability and increases the risk of depression. Eventually, a bad mood impairs the athlete’s performance. So, with proper, regular, and sufficient sleep, an athlete’s mental health can be at optimal levels.
  • Besides, the cognitive function of an athlete holds utmost importance when it comes to performing on the ground. Cognitive function is the ability of an athlete to absorb and process the information while playing the game, and at the same time respond to it fast and in the best possible way.

How does sleep boost athletic performance?

  • Sleep positively affects athletic performance in various physical aspects.
  • According to a study, basketball players who slept for around 10 hours every day saw a significant positive impact on their game. They could shoot the ball with better accuracy and could run faster than before.
  • The following points explain the various aspects of improved performance with an increase in quality and quantity of sleep.
  1. Increased Endurance – For endurance, sleep is so important that a lack of enough qualitative and quantitative sleep can lead to an increase in exertion, thus, affecting endurance. Sleep induces repair and building of muscle and tissues and releases growth hormone for recovery. This helps in increasing the endurance of athletes.
  2. Level of accuracy and reaction time – According to a study on a group of collegiate tennis players, an increase of 1.6 hours of sleep helped in improving 36% – to 41% accuracy. Similarly, an extension in the sleep hours at night showed an improvement in the reaction time of athletes.
  3. Research also shows that quality sleep can catalyze the activity of neuronal connections.
  4. Level of Grasping and Execution – For an athlete, learning is an ongoing process that helps to consistently improve the skill and techniques of the game. Good sleep contributes to enhancing this ability to grasp, learn, and execute the same.
  5. This is possible because sleep helps in memory consolidation and neurocognitive performance that eventually results in easier learning and execution of the game, thus, leading to optimal performance.
  6. Improved Circadian Rhythm – Circadian rhythm and athletic performance are heavily integrated factors. Following a systematic sleep routine with ideal sleep hygiene habits, and quality sleep every night can improve the circadian rhythm.
  7. Changes in the circadian rhythm can affect the melatonin release of the body. Therefore, good sleep routines can positively impact circadian rhythms, resulting in peak athletic performance.

How does sleep affects recovery?

  • The recovery process during sleep takes place mainly through hormone activity. The sleep hormone – melatonin is activated, and it stimulates other proinflammatory enzymes to neutralize the oxidative cells. These oxidative cells cause harm to cells and contribute to tissue inflammation.
  • Deep sleep enhances the release of growth hormones and androgens that are vital for muscle growth and repair. Also, it contributes to bone growth, restoration of the immune and endocrine systems, and recovery of the nervous system of the human body.
  • Thus, a good recovery helps in improving athletic performance.


The revolutionary contribution of sleep for an athlete is clear evidence of why every athlete should aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Besides, it is important to follow healthy sleep hygiene habits or ethics like avoiding screens/blue screens before bed, sleeping at a cooler temperature, avoiding caffeine before bed, optimizing the room environment, and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. Thus, athletes should make sleep an integral part of their routine to witness their peak performances on the ground.


Anjali Mahamune

Dietitian, Sports Nutritionist, Exercise Professional

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