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  • Writer's pictureStarr Knight

The Sleeping Patterns Of Professional Athletes

“Eat, sleep and swim, that’s all I can do.” - Michael Phelps

If you think a teenager sleeps a lot, they’ve got nothing on a professional athlete who will consistently aim for 10-12 hours sleep a night. The average of 6.44 hours of sleep for a “normal” person makes you wonder why we don’t see more professional athletes endorsing beds as opposed to shoes!

For a professional athlete to perform at their physical peak, they have to sleep after workouts, before games/matches and especially uninterrupted through the night.

To give you an idea of how losing sleep can affect your performance, here are some statistics you should be aware of;

  • Chronic sleep loss can lead to a 30-40% reduction in Glucose metabolism.

  • Sleep loss means an 11% reduction in time to exhaustion

  • 2 days of sleep restriction can lead to a 3x increase in lapses of attention and reactivity

  • Maximum bench press ability drops by over 2KG after four days of restricted sleep

  • Exertion increases by 17-19% after 30 hours without sleep.

You may think you will be able to have the best of both worlds as someone in sport; being able to go out until 2am then be up at 6am for training but in the long run, it just won’t work.

Sleeping is, in our society underrated with people saying “you can sleep when you are dead” and I have to admit, I was one of them, however, after reading the above information on how sleep deprivation can affect you in a number of detrimental ways, I changed my mind.

So, how can extending sleep improve your physical abilities?


  • Tennis players get a 42% boost in hitting accuracy during depth drills, after sleeping between 10-12 hours.

  • Sleep improves split-second decision making ability by 4.3%

  • Sleep extension provides swimmers a 17% improvement in reaction time off the starting blocks

  • A 20-30 minute nap during the day improves alertness by 42%

Surprisingly, there are a lot of top athletes that don’t follow the 10-12 hour sleep rule.

Tiger Woods, for example, only sleeps 4-5 hours every night (this might explain a lot) however the likes of Roger Federer, Lebron James, Rafael Nadal, Usain Bolt and Michelle Wie get between 8-12 hours of sleep every night.

Here are 4 simple sleeping tips to help you perform more effectively;

  • Maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule during training

  • Train and practice during the time of day you will compete

  • Adjust your training load based on your recovery

  • Take a 20-30 minute pre match/game rest to help increase alertness

Are you ready to sleep like a professional athlete?


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