Why Pro Athletes Take Sleep So Seriously

If you want to bring out your inner athlete, you should too.

Professional athletes have access to resources that most of us mere mortals don’t — nutritionists, sports psychologists, world-renowned trainers, etc. But science continues to prove that one of the most essential elements for physical (and mental) performance is something we can all get our hands on: consistent, quality sleep. The latest example? A new study showing that pro baseball players may fare better at bat after getting more sleep.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

In the study, researchers recruited 17 MLB players and had half stick with their normal sleep schedules for five nights while the other half were instructed to sleep for an hour longer than they typically did. (The sleep extension group ended up getting an average of .6 hours more sleep per night, bumping up their nightly average from 6.3 hours to 6.9 hours.) After five nights, the players who increased their sleep improved their response time (which could come in handy when they’re facing a fastball) and decreased their scores on fatigue, tension and daytime sleepiness assessments.

Seventeen is a small number of subjects, but these findings add to both scientific and anecdotal evidence of how important sleep is for athletic performance. We’ve written about how NBA players who post late-night tweets perform worse in games the next day and previous research by the same lead author of this new study found that getting more sleep improved on-court performance among college basketball players. Plus, superstar athletes including Michael Phelps, Tom Brady, Usain Bolt, Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Roger Federer have all said that sleep is an essential element of their training. Athletes used to live like rock stars. Now the best of them live like yogis.

The study was presented at SLEEP 2017, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. Read more about it here.