What effect does lack of sleep have on performance?

Training & Technique
Written by: arena coaches at 15 May '18 0
You are reading: What effect does lack of sleep have on performance?

Rest is a vital part of performance and is key to achieving your goals.

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly obvious that the quality of an athlete’s performances depends on several factors. Physical fitness, mental preparation, nutrition, hydration and, of course, the quality and quantity of sleep.

In this article, I will focus on the fourth factor. Sleep is often underestimated, particularly by athletes themselves. Rest is, indeed, a key ingredient in training and vital for achieving your goals.

So why is sleep so important?

1. It improves your reaction times.

In a sport requiring the utmost reactivity and in which one-hundredth of a second can be the difference between victory and defeat, resting becomes vitally important. Recent studies have shown that it takes several days to recover from a lack of sleep and this can reduce reaction times by over 200 percent.

2. More speed

A study carried out at Stanford University[1] has shown that a regular sleep pattern over a period of several weeks can help you swim faster and generally improve your performance.

3. Injury prevention

A study carried out at California University[2] has shown how injuries are related to the length of time you sleep, proving that there is a direct correlation between injuries and the quality of your rest. The equation is very simple:

lack of sleep = – recovery – reactivity + stressed immune system = injury

So what tips can we get from these three considerations:

1. Customize your training.

Do not be too hard on yourself. We are not all the same, each of us has a different threshold for handling fatigue. Adjust and vary your training load to your own requirements. When you are tired, rest. This should be your priority.

2. Listen to your body and rest properly.

Think about all the commitments you deal with every day. Study, work, family. Sometimes there is no time to rest. Listen to your body if it is telling you it needs to recover. Stop and pay very careful attention to the signals your body is sending you. You will find out that hard work without proper rest will impact negatively on your health, as well as your performances.

3. Stop if you need to!

When you feel your body is not functioning properly and is sending you warning signals – such as stress, passing out, over-tiredness – the best thing to do is to stop straight away. Perhaps you need to reduce your workload and rest more and better.

According to an old saying, “we are what we eat.” In the case of athletes, this could be changed to, “we produce (in terms of performance) according to how well we rest.”

Rest is important for everybody, but in the case of an athlete, it is essential. If you are an athlete, you must learn that sleep has a real impact on your performance.


[1] Mah C, et al. (2011)
[2] Luke A, et al. (2011)

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arena coaches

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