Sleep and ferritin: the secrets to performing at your best

Fitness & Wellness
Written by: arena coaches at 3 June '15 0
You are reading: Sleep and ferritin: the secrets to performing at your best

Have you ever wondered what the secret is to performing at your best?

An athlete’s natural talent and the quality of their training are obviously vitally important, but there are other aspects that both professional and amateur athletes cannot afford to overlook.

The first of these is sleep.

Recent studies* performed on athletes from various different sports have shown the sleeping between 7-10 hours-a-night has considerable benefits:

  • improves your mood
  • speeds up your reaction time
  • reduces drowsiness or lethargy during the daytime

Generally speaking, all athletes showed specific improvements and, in the case of swimmers in particular, they increased their speed.

Sleep,  particularly for periods of over seven hours, appears to strengthen neural pathways. This might explain why younger athletes tend to perform better, because they are used to sleeping eight hours-a-night.

So how can you sleep better?

1. dim the lights half an hour before going to bed

2. keep all tablets, smartphones or other electronic devices (that give off sounds or light that might disturb your sleep) out of the bedroom.

3. no caffeine or stimulants of any other kind after 4 p.m.

The second key to improving your performance is ferritin.

Ferritin is a protein mainly found in the liver, spleen or bone marrow and is essential for creating red blood vessels. All sports people should regularly make sure their ferritin levels are above 40 ng/mL. Clinically speaking, ferritin levels of below 20 ng/mL are worrying for non-athletes and extremely serious for athletes, because they could cause anaemia, particularly in women.

To avoid any serious problems, follow these3 pieces of advice:

1. Take regular tests throughout the entire season to keep an eye on your iron and ferritin levels.

2. Consult a dietician or nutritionist to find out the right nutritional program for you based on your daily/weekly training schedule and non-sporting activities.

3. If your iron or ferritin levels are low, please consult a doctor who will advise you what treatment to follow.

Learn to sleep properly and monitor your physical condition. Looking after your health is the real key to success.


– The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players
Cheri D. Mah, MS1; Kenneth E. Mah, MD, MS1; Eric J. Kezirian, MD, MPH2; William C. Dement, MD, PhD1
– 1Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; 2Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA

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arena coaches

Swim coaches, trainers and experts will give you all kinds of tips for performing at your best in both training and races.