Out Sleep Your Opponents: The Effect Of Sleep On Performance

woman sprinter

Dayton Kelly

This article was adapted from a combination of speeches given at the European Sports Science Conference 2017, most notably Knufinke, M. et al. [Netherlands].

As you probably know, working out when your tired is not fun. That you do not work as hard when you are exhausted is probably something you could have told me. This a major problem for athletes because these populations have been observed to have poor sleep habits and night time competition has been shown to reduce sleep quantity and quality the evening of the event. This leads us to wonder how important sleep is to performance.

Related Article: Exercise Induced Sleep Improvements

Looking to the literature:

When it comes crunch time, athletes that have had their duration of sleep reduced demonstrate compromised reaction time, motor skills, aerobic exercise, and a host of other physiological parameters. Additionally, affective qualities such as motivation and mood seem to be reduced. This has been demonstrated by a number of studies that have reduced sleeping in athletes and measured changes in their performance. As well, a number of studies increasing sleep time past normal values and have demonstrated increases in these same performance outcomes. However, in many cases, sleep duration has been altered so dramatically that these effects may not actually be representative of the sleep patterns of athletes. Novel research has endeavored to determine the effects only 2 hours of sleep loss make on performance.

The Effect Of Sleep On Performance:

A recent study reduced sleep duration by two hours and measured cognitive and motor performance. Three aspects were assessed: reaction time, fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Of these only fine motor skills did not display significant impairment after sleep deprivation. While the effects were small they were still detectable and when repeated over the course of a game may contribute to a much larger resulting performance impairment.

Related Article: 7 Tips to Get You Sleeping Again

Conclusions:

Even small changes in sleep duration, to the magnitude of two hours, can affect performance. Whether other measures of performance such as endurance and muscular strength are responsive to small changes in sleep duration remains to be elucidated. One thing though seems certain, the next time game day rolls around, it will be worth your while to get some sleep!

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