Hopefully, you have found this blog to be a nice source of information regarding the link between cognitive science/brain research and sports. Well, today, I have uncovered one of the most exciting, breakthrough, radical, theory-busting pieces of research on sports performance..... wait for it...... here it is:
"EXTRA SLEEP IMPROVES ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE"
I ran across this headline in my usual scan of science news feeds and did a double take. I thought, "there must be more to this than just the headline...". Nope, the title pretty much sums it up. The Onion could not have written it any better.
Here's the details of the study:
- Participants were five (5!) student-athletes on the Stanford Univ. swim team (Men's and Women's)
- First 2 weeks, they slept their "normal" amounts.
- Then, they extended their sleep to 10 hours per night for six to seven weeks.
- After the extended sleep period, they improved their 15 meter sprint time by .51 seconds and improved their start times off the blocks by .15 seconds.
I'm guessing that this improvement is significant for swimmers. But, doesn't this belong in the "Do we really need to study this or can we just believe what our Moms told us" category? This study helped confirm the author's previous study of six (6!) Stanford basketball players who improved their sprint speed and free throw shooting after getting additional sleep. The study also noted improvements in the athletes' mood and alertness after sleeping more... go figure.
From the lead researcher:
“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.”
“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,” said Mah. “These negative effects can be minimized or eliminated by prioritizing sleep in general and, more specifically, obtaining extra sleep to reduce one’s sleep debt.” Welcome to college...
Here's some additional, useful tips from the author:
- 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.
So, there you go, practical, applied research ready for you to take advantage of in your pursuit of excellence in sports.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go lie down for a few minutes...
Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2008, June 9). Extra Sleep Improves Athletic Performance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 9, 2008, from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080609071106.htm