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The Sleep Mantra for Sustained Athletic Performance

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

by Dr. Monika Sharma (Behavioural Sleep Medicine Specialist)

Sleep disorders and their consequences are a common sight with athletes as they have a demanding routine loaded with training, competitions, travel, and social commitments. These problems are often overlooked and under-diagnosed as sleep is given the least priority in the Indian sports landscape. Many studies have reported that Indians are the second most sleep-deprived people in the world. However, sound sleep for 7-9 hours a day is crucial for all adults. It is more so for elite athletes whose days are filled with workouts, training, and competitions. If they do not get complete sleep it can affect their physical and mental health, which in turn will hamper their overall performance.

Sleep Deprivation and Reaction Time

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation affects a person’s ability to perform various psychomotor tasks such as reaction time, accuracy, and alertness during the game. These can lead to poor performance and injury in the athletic field.

Lack of sleep and adverse cognitive functioning

A 2007 study by NCBI showed that there is a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and reduced attention – categorised by cognitive slowing, more lapsing, memory impairment, decreased vigilance, and reduced response capability. These are critical for performing in the field. Another study showed that the serving accuracy reduced by a whopping 53% in tennis players due to sleep deficit. It was also seen that the reaction time for athletes significantly increased with only one night’s sleep deprivation. The reason being, reactions are a cognitive function, which gets affected due to lack of sleep.

Decreased Anaerobic Power

Any sport like hockey, boxing, and wrestling requires both optimum attention and anaerobic power, which is essentially, the rate at which maximum energy for power is developed. Both these factors are crucial for better performance. Studies show that lack of sleep affects many of the anaerobic performance parameters like peak power and mean power and choice reaction time. As per a study, male runners and volleyball players got tired much faster after sleep deprivation. The adequate number of hours and good quality sleep is critical for the health, recovery, and optimal performance of elite athletes given their physical and mental demands from competition and training. It is the potential gateway to the making of a powerful athlete, an important fact often overlooked. Athletes in general and Indian players, in particular, ignore this critical aspect of their life. Professional help from sleep doctors is a must in such a scenario.

About Dr. Monika Sharma (Chief Consultant and Researcher)

Dr. Monika Sharma is a sleep expert and an experienced consultant from the University of Pennsylvania, USA ; Ex Sir Ganga Ram Hospital , New Delhi, India who has helped many clients with sleep problems over the years. She has over 14 years long experience in sleep academia and is a regular speaker, panel expert and advisor on numerous sleep-related forums. Her impressive portfolio, backed by some great testimonies from her clients, makes her one of the top sleep advisors in the country.

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