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Importance of sleep for athletes

Importance of sleep for athletes

Following sleep hygiene, staying away from gadgets before bedtime and napping during the day can elevate an athlete’s performance

Sleep helps to recover from the mental and physical demands of sport and is essential for elevated performance

“On your mark, get set and go”- as the trigger is released, an athlete is only focused on performing better than his/her opponent. An athlete’s performance is determined by the quality and quantity of his/her sleep. Sleep is important for all athletes and is a superpower.

Sleep helps the body to recover between a bout of training and exercise, says Dr Rahul Sharma, additional director of pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Noida.

Ronit More, a Ranji trophy and Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket player from India, told Happiest Health that sleep has a major impact on his game.

“My daily routine is determined by my sleep pattern. I ensure that I sleep for up to 8 hours every day. When I do not get enough sleep, I feel tired easily and this affects my focus on the game. Playing cricket throughout the day being sleep deprived has a severe consequence, as the body does not get enough time to recover and this affects your performance on the field,” said Ronit.

Being an athlete takes years of consistent practice, and it usually begins at a young age. This also means that parents have a role in structuring their child’s daily routines. While children engage themselves in practice sessions and academics, their sleep schedule gets compromised.

K.L. Rahul, Indian international cricketer and vice-captain of Indian cricket team, started his training at a young age. Speaking about the importance of sleep in Rahul’s life, his mother Rajeshwari C, from Mangaluru, Karnataka, said, “Rahul would travel to different places for his training and cricket matches. Having a routine that would suit him was essential. When an individual sleeps well, he/she will be able to play well the next morning. Lack of sleep can make any individual feel dizzy, drowsy or lose concentration. Hence, sleep is very important, especially for athletes.”

“Sportsmen spirit is an important quality that helps athletes to manage game outcomes without letting it affect their sleep. Body massage and physiotherapy help them to get a sound sleep. Sleep for athletes cannot be generalised, hence, expert advice is best in every case. When children are younger, it is easier to manage their routines. Providing food a couple of hours before bedtime, following the “early to bed, early to rise” mantra can help young children perform better in sports,” she added.

Importance of sleep for athletes

Dr Amy Bender, sports scientist, director of Cerebra, Canada, says, “Research has established that when athletes get more sleep, they perform better. It is also found that their reaction time becomes quicker. So, they can respond quicker, and their sprint time decreases. As a result, their sports-specific skills are also improved. For example, in a tennis player, the serving accuracy is improved. And even cyclists found that their time trials also improved by getting more sleep. Sleep extension or banking of sleep helped them sleep better.”

“Sleep helps in recovery of the physical systems. It helps you recover from the mental and physical demands of the sport. With sleep, we see growth hormones being released in the body helping the tissues to be repaired. When we sleep, neurons in the brain shrink in order to allow cerebrospinal fluid (a fluid that assists the brain by providing protection, nourishment and waste removal) to flow through and get rid of toxic waste, which probably has benefits relating to memory, cognition, mood, etc. So, it helps the mental and physical aspects of recovery,” she added

Importance of sleep while travelling

“I know athletes who are really struggling to sleep on the plane. They were travelling to multiple time zones for their world cup competitions. Creating an ideal atmosphere for sleeping also helps athletes to sleep better. Keeping your sleep environment like a cave (cool, dark and quiet), trying to keep it at a lower temperature (between 16 and 19 degree Celsius) will help,” says Dr Bender.


  • Sleep is essential for athletes in order to rejuvenate their bodies for elevated performance.
  • Following sleep hygiene, staying away from gadgets before bedtime and napping during the day can help athletes to overcome sleep issues and perform better.
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