To sleep, perchance to improve athletic performance, mood and alertness. That’s one likely outcome suggested by research conducted at Stanford University, where researchers studied the performance of five healthy students on the men’s and women’s swimming teams. ScienceDaily reports that for the first two weeks of the study, the students maintained their usual sleep-wake pattern. The athletes then extended their sleep to 10 hours per day for six to seven weeks. The researchers found that the extra sleep knocked 0.51 seconds of the 15-meter sprint, improved their reaction time off the block by 0.15 seconds, and improved turn time by 0.10 seconds and increased kick strokes by 5.0 kicks. Lead author of the study, Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, has this advice for competitve athletes:
- Make sleep a part of your regular training regimen.
- Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your sleep debt before competition.
- Maintain a low sleep debt by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to eight hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults).
- Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day.
- Take brief naps to obtain additional sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.