Professional sport is all about numbers and advantage. Anything that naturally gives you an advantage to improve your numbers is valuable and sleep serves a vital physiological function, providing the single most important factor in exercise recovery and well documented enhancements in performance metrics (1).
One Stanford University study showed a 1.5 hour increase in nightly sleep over just 5 weeks resulted in major statistical improvements in varsity basketballers: sprint times reduced from 16.2 to 15.5 seconds, free throw percentage increased 9% and 3-pointer percentage improved 6% (2). Studies across other sports demonstrated swimmers having vastly improved block reaction times and tennis accuracy improving from 36 to 42% (3).
Elite athletes are known to get less sleep than non-athletes, despite clear evidence showing higher requirements. It’s no surprise that high-performance trainers are increasingly placing as much focus on sleep - as training and diet (4).
Simply put: if you don’t sleep adequately, your performance drops.
Sleep deprivation also puts athletes at greater risk of injury. In addition to slower reaction times, the body is prone to illness and more susceptible to injury; not to mention slower to recover from injury in the absence of adequately restorative sleep. So sleep disruption is not only more likely to put an athlete on the sidelines, it keeps them there longer (5).
The most fascinating finding in a recent meta-analysis of dozens of publications is that partial sleep deprivation (<5h total sleep in a day) has a far greater negative effect on physical and cognitive performance than short- and long-term sleep deprivation. Partial sleep deprivation is exactly what occurs with a newborn baby in the home!
Sleep is indeed the magic, natural tonic to improve performance and enhance recovery. By maximising a newborn’s sleep and minimising interruptions, the whole family benefits.
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