Does Lack of Sleep Affect Sporting Performance?

by | 11 Apr 2019 | training

Does lack of sleep affect sporting performance? Let’s take a look.

Sleep: we love it and often we just can’t get enough of it. Especially as we get older, sleep is usually the first thing to be sacrificed as we try to fit everything into a jam-packed 24 hours. But if you’re training most days each week, your lack of sleep could be hindering your athletic performance. Sufficient sleep should be part of your training schedule. Yes, we’re serious.

Roger Federer gets 12 hours sleep a night! Okay, that’s a little excessive, but professional athletes prioritise sleep more than most of us, and here’s why.

Sleep and Sporting Performance

Recover Faster

As you train, your muscles and tissues come under serious stress, hence why rest days are essential in order to let the body recover properly. Well, sleep is equally important in the rest and recovery process. Shorter sleep periods don’t enable the body to regenerate cells quick enough, or to repair from the abuse of tough workouts sufficiently. The less we sleep, the less we recover properly.


Train Harder

Funnily enough, the less we recover, the less hard we can train going forwards. So, if your training sessions begin to suffer as a result of insufficient sleep time and therefore recovery, well, your fitness levels don’t improve as quickly and your performance is inhibited. Conversely, the more you sleep the harder you can train and the fitter you can become.


Think Quicker

Not only does a lack of sleep affect us physically in our ability to repair muscles and tissues, but mentally as well. It’s clear that sleep deprivation significantly reduces reaction times much more than you might think…even a surprisingly low level of fatigue can reduce reaction times as much as being legally drunk would (Read about it here: Yep, for real, it’s scary. You wouldn’t (or hopefully wouldn’t) begin an event you’ve been training for months for after a few drinks down the pub, so be sure not to make any plans apart from some serious ‘zzzzz’ the night before your next event.


Focus Better

Reaction times are one thing, but memory, focus, and learning are another.  Without sleep, our brain struggles to absorb new knowledge and effectively consolidate memory. You might not think knowledge or memory are needed for riding a bike or going for a run, but the more serious you get, the more technique and tactics come in to play. Remembering miniscule details of your training is often the difference between winning and losing. So…you get the gist, make sure you prioritise your shut-eye time.


So, in the same way that athletes need more calories than the average Joe while they are training, they need more sleep as well. It makes sense hey, you’re pushing your body to the limits, so understandably your body needs more time to recover both physically and mentally. Go on, treat yourself to a good night’s sleep…after all, it’s part of your training plan! That should answer your questions, does lack of sleep affect sporting performance!


Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash


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