3 Ways Sleep Impacts Sports Performance

women sitting on hill after workout

Alyssa Bialowas

The importance of quality sleep for athletes is often underrated. While a major focus is constantly put on physical training and nutrition, sleep takes a backseat. However, sleep is just as important for the overall health of athletes, and can impact sports performance in a very real way. Quality sleep is essential for athletic success and can help decrease injury rates, and increase physical recovery and mental alertness.  

A study out of Brazil analyzed the relationship between sleep quality, mood and game results in elite volleyball athletes (Andrade et al. 2016). Prior research indicates that better sleep quality contributes to better emotional and physical recovery for athletes, and that athletes with fewer than the ideal number of sleep hours per day were found to have had their sports performance negatively affected (Andrade et al. 2016). The study aimed to determine the relationship between sleep, mood and match results in elite volleyball athletes.

Related Article: Is Quality Sleep a Predictor for Sports Injury?

3 ways sleep impacts sports performance.

1. Boosts Mental Alertness

Without proper sleep, your mental alertness takes a hit. Sleep loss impairs your focus, memory, judgement and learning capacity, so you’re not at your best mentally when you’re tired. Many sports require athletes to make split-second decisions, so if they’re off their game, it could have a major impact.

Andrade et al. (2016) found that with each point increase in confusion (characterized by unusual response to anxiety/depression, feelings of uncertainty and inability to control emotions) there was a 19.7% decrease in sleep quality for elite volleyball athletes. A lack of sleep quality therefore can negatively influence athletic performance and interfere with attaining the desired game result (Andrade et al. 2016).

2. Lowers Tension Levels, Increasing Game Success

Andrade et al. (2016) found that mood was associated with athletes’ success in competitions. Stress and tension can have a negative overall effect on athletes, leading to an unfavorable result. Athletes that lost their game showed higher tension at the time of evaluation than those who won their game (Andrade et al. 2016). Therefore, athletes who slept well, and won their games, had lower tension levels.

3. Reduces Injury Rates

Quality sleep contributes to everything from a healthy immune system to increased alertness to muscle recovery. Take away any or all these things and you have a recipe for increased injuries. In a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (2016) it was determined that athletes who got over 8 hours of sleep during weekdays reduced the odds of injury by 61%.


Proper, quality sleep is essential for athletes and sports performance. Quality sleep boosts mental awareness, lowers tension levels, reduces injury, and is associated with wins. Sleep is just as important as training and proper nutrition for elite athletes.

Related Article: 7 Tips to Get You Sleeping Again

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Andrade, A., Bevilacqua, G.G., Coimbra, D.R., Pereira, F.S., and Brandt, R. (2016). “Sleep Quality, Mood and Performance: A Study of Elite Brazilian Volleyball Athletes.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 16, 601-605.

Von Rosen, P., Frohm, A., Kottorp, A. Friden, C., and Heijne, A. (2016). “Too Little Sleep and an Unhealthy Diet Could Increase the Risk of Sustaining a New Injury in Adolescent Elite Athletes.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.


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