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Extra sleep boosts athletic performance

It was observed that athletes swam a 15-metre sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds, and increased kick strokes by 5.0 kicks after having extra sleep.
By HT Correspondent | ANI, Washington
UPDATED ON JUN 09, 2008 11:13 PM IST

An ongoing study suggests that athletes who get an extra amount of sleep are more likely to have better performance, mood, and alertness. These findings spring from an investigation involving five students on the Stanford University men’s and women’s swimming teams.

The participants maintained their usual sleep-wake patter for the first two weeks of the study, and then extended their sleep to 10 hours per day for six to seven weeks. Their performance was assessed after each regularly scheduled swim practice.

It was observed that athletes swam a 15-metre sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds, and increased kick strokes by 5.0 kicks after having extra sleep.

“These results begin to elucidate the importance of sleep on athletic performance and, more specifically, how sleep is a significant factor in achieving peak athletic performance,” said lead author Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory.

“While this study focuses specifically on collegiate swimmers, it agrees with data from my other studies of different sports and suggests that athletes across all sports can greatly benefit from extra sleep and gain the additional competitive edge to perform at their highest level,” she added.

She and her colleagues observed that daytime sleepiness getting extra sleep also led to mood improvements, including higher ratings of vigour and lower ratings of fatigue.

“Typically, many athletes accumulate a large sleep debt by not obtaining their individual sleep requirement each night, which can have detrimental effects on cognitive function, mood, and reaction time. These negative effects can be minimised or eliminated by prioritising sleep in general and, more specifically, obtaining extra sleep to reduce one’s sleep debt,” she said.

Mah also highlighted the findings of a previous study, involving six players on the Stanford men’s basketball team, wherein performance measures like sprint times and free-throw shooting improved after extra sleep, as did ratings of mood and alertness.

Having studied the impact of extra sleep on players related to different sport activities at Stanford, Mah is now planning to work with athletes at other colleges.

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