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Reasons Sleep Impacts Peak Athletic Performance


It is a universally known fact that a proper night’s sleep is paramount before any major athletic event. Almost all the sports coaches and health experts unanimously agree on the fact that an uninterrupted night of sleep on a regular basis is necessary for bringing out the peak athletic performance. This is because sleep has an array of benefits when it comes to work and performance such as faster muscle recovery, decreased risk of injury, and heightened focus and alertness among others. Therefore, we have come up with a new piece that elaborates how sleep health-related fitness contributes to sports performance.

#01 Rest & Recovery

One of the greatest benefits of sleep is its ability to heal the body and mind overnight. When it comes to athletes, faster recovery is a must due to the additional strain on the muscles. Be it tissue healing, inflammation, fatigue, or recovering from muscle pain and damage, sleep initiates the body’s response to trigger the various chemicals, proteins, and hormones responsible for healing the body. One example of this is the role of sleep in allowing the body to utilize the human growth hormone (HGH), which in turn allows greater absorption of healing proteins like casein into the body. A minimum of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep therefore becomes a must so that the body can experience all the necessary phases of sleep such as deep sleep and REM sleep.      

#02 Fitness and Body Weight

An adequate amount of sleep helps in the upkeep of the overall fitness of the mind and body. When the body is rested properly, the motivation for further workout and training also increases. Deprioritization of sleep over training and workout can increase the cumulative sleep deficit and cause fatigue and sluggishness. Additionally, a proper sleep schedule is important for maintaining the optimum body weight by regulating the glycogenic breakdown and appetite controlling. According to this extensive report on sleep health, sleep deprivation and stress can influence the body’s craving for high calorie food items which then leads to unwanted gaining of body weight. Thanks to a large number of researches pointing towards the adverse relation of poor sleep and obesity, we are aware that factors like mood and stress can also contribute towards irregular food consumption and the subsequent fluctuations in the release of hormones like serotonin and HGH.

#03 Alertness 

Other than factors like strength, endurance, and fitness, an athlete also strives to gain accuracy, faster reaction time, and well-regulated motor functions. Sleep deprived individuals run a higher risk of making poor decisions because of a feeling of disorientation that also effects their reaction time and alacrity. Athletes involved in sport activities that require sprinting, shooting, passing, etc., may encounter a setback that prevents them from reaching peak athletic performance. While daytime napping is usually discouraged, multiple sleep influencers have agreed that a daytime nap not exceeding 35-40 minutes can be miraculous for reinstating the alertness and cognitive faculties. A research conducted a total of 13 national-level male karate athletes found that in case of a partial sleep deprivation, a 30-minutes nap was observed to be restorative of alertness and mental cognition.   

#04 Injury Risk

Sleep deprivation in general has been associated with a large number of mishaps and accidents related to walking, driving, in a working environment, and also in the playing fields. A study on the relationship of sports injuries and chronic lack of sleep found that adolescent athletes who slept less than 8 hours had a 1.7 times greater risk of encountering a musculoskeletal injury than those who slept more than the prescribed 8 hours. An athletes reduced reaction time and body fatigue make it difficult to evade a sudden hit or fall and also make it harder for them to brace their body for an impact. A poor sleep health is bound to make the case of an injury worse due to the body’s diminished recovery power and low immunity to ward of illness. Due to a gradual degradation of optimum body fitness with age, athletes already have a limited number of years when it comes to their careers. Injuries and illnesses can mar their sporting careers by cutting it short. They should therefore understand how does lack of sleep affect risk of injury and prioritize their sleep requirements if they wish to have a long and active career.   

#05 Mental State

A poor sleep health can not only hamper the alertness required in various sporting activities but also make it difficult to register new memories and recall old ones which is a key factor in learning and focusing. As a result, athletes who are sleep deprived have to encounter wakefulness, fatigue, grogginess, and lack of stamina which causes them to underperform. It is very likely that such athletes might also undergo stress and poor mood which in turn can affect their ability to strategize and execute plans during a game. It is very common for athletes to lose sleep because of regular traveling and constantly shifting sleeping environments. For times like these, it is favorable to carry a set of sleep aids such as a horseshoe pillow, a pair of noise-cancelling earplugs, an eye mask, melatonin supplements, and water to keep them hydrated. 

Bottom line:

When it comes to achieving peak athletic performance, one has to keep up their mental preparation, nutrition level, hydration, and most important of all- their sleep health, as sleep holds the central position in the regulation of all the other factors. By taking note of all the above-mentioned reasons, you can convincingly derive that sleep impacts peak athletic performance.

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