Does sleep alter sports performance? Here are the shocking, scientific facts.


Short ‘n’ healthful article:

It’s 8PM.  You’re in bed because you’re playing in the grand final tomorrow and you want to be fresh. Fresh to death (FTD). Heck, it’s the biggest game of your athletic life!

Fast forward six hours and you guessed it, you’re still in bed; oh, and you’re still awake. Wide awake. Yes, you’re as giddy as Gordon Ramsay on his ninth coffee.  You worry and hope that this sleep deprivation won’t impair your performance tomorrow. Should you be worrying? Let’s see what the science has to say!


The science:

Yes, a recent review paper analysed the available data on the topic to date and found the following exciting findings – so, agh, maybe don’t read this if you’re about to go to sleep!

1. Decreased sleep was generally found to impair sports performance. Endurance sports performance was more effected than anaerobic (powerful) sports performance. This is likely since endurance exercise requires prolonged motivation, which is impaired with sleep deprivation. Dang!

2. Evening sports performance appears to be more impaired by sleep deprivation than morning performance.  Bad news if you’re a professional beer ponger like me!

3. Sleep deprivation earlier in the night is better than that later in the night. So whatever you do, don’t wake up!

4. There is some evidence (of a fairly poor quality) that extending sleep times in the weeks prior to a competition can enhance performance in that competition.  LeBron James reports doing this, so it must work!


Is it healthful:

Yes, sleep is moderately healthful when it comes to sports performance, particularly if you’re an endurance athlete, or playing sport in the evening. Adding on a few hours of Captain Snooze in the weeks before competition may make you a little more LeBron like. All in all, you were right to worry!

I hope this has been healthful! Do you find sleep alters your sports performance? 



15 thoughts on “Does sleep alter sports performance? Here are the shocking, scientific facts.

  1. Most of these studies are flawed because they take a group of random and then cut their sleep, then conclude that if the group average is 7hrs, then if you are only getting 6hrs then you are not getting enough sleep. But if you are used to getting 6hrs then that is you norm, not 7hrs! Basically the idea that 95% of the population needs 7-9hrs/night is probably an overestimation because of this selectional bias.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having said that, yes you should definitely get as much sleep as you can ahead of a race and generally. Just don’t think that you need to be hitting a particular number just because a study has said so.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Van,

        Many thanks for the comments. Yeah, you raise a good point, there are certainly some methodological flaws with the studies.

        What I would conclude from this paper, is that if you get significantly less sleep than what is your norm, then performance is likely to suffer.


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