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17-07-2011 | Internal medicine | Article

More sleep may improve athletic performance


Free abstract

MedWire News: Optimal sleep is essential for reaching peak athletic performance, study findings suggest.

US researchers investigated the effects of sleep extension over multiple weeks on specific measures of athletic performance, as well as reaction time, mood, and daytime sleepiness in 11 collegiate basketball players (mean age 19.4 years).

"Extended sleep beyond one's habitual nightly sleep likely contributes to improved athletic performance," the authors remark. "Improvements in shooting percentage, sprint times, reaction time, mood, fatigue, and vigor were all observed with increased total sleep time."

The athletes were required to maintain their habitual sleep-wake patterns for a 2-4 week baseline period, staying within the limits of 6-9 hours of subjective sleep per night. They were then asked to extend their sleep duration, with a minimum goal of 10 hours in bed per night, for a period of 5-7 weeks.

As reported in the journal Sleep, Cheri Mah (Stanford University, California) and colleagues say that during the sleep extension period the mean total objective nightly sleep time increased from baseline by 110.9 minutes.

During this period, improvement was observed in all areas assessing basketball athletic performance. Specifically, sprint time (282 feet) significantly improved from baseline (15.5 vs 16.2 sec), as did shooting accuracy, with free throw percentage increasing by 9% and 3-point field goal percentage increasing by 9.2%.

Psychomotor vigilance task performance - a measure of reaction time - improved during sleep extension compared with baseline, with reaction times significantly decreasing for all daily and weekly testing periods.

Furthermore, daytime sleepiness and mood, as measured by the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and Profile of Mood States, respectively, improved during the sleep extension period, compared with baseline, suggesting a reduction in levels of daytime sleepiness.

Individuals also reported improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being during practice and games following sleep extension.

Mah and co-authors say that while many variables such as nutrition, conditioning, and coaching certainly contribute to athletic performance outcomes, sleep duration has not been directly studied as an important factor.

"For an athlete to reach optimal performance, an accurate knowledge of one's nightly sleep requirement and obtaining this amount should be considered integral factors in an athlete's daily training regimen," the researchers conclude.

"An additional factor to be considered beyond the nightly sleep requirement is how one's quality of sleep affects athletic performance, as it has been reported that a substantial number of elite athletes experienced poor sleep quality," they add.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers

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