Washington, June 8 (IANS) Wondering how star athlete Roger Federer won the French Open tennis championship? The secret may lie in increased sleep. According to a study, athletes who extended their nightly sleep and reduced accumulated sleep debt reported improvements in various drills conducted after every regular practice.
Cheri Mah, study lead author and researcher at Stanford University in California stated that many of the athletes who participated in the study, for the first time realized the importance of sleep and how it affects their performance during competitions.
“While most athletes and coaching staff may believe that sleep is an important contributing factor in sports, many do not realize that optimal or peak performance can only occur when an athlete’s sleep and sleep habits are optimal” said Mah.
Five healthy students between the ages of 18 and 21 who were members of the Stanford Women’s tennis team participated in the study. Subjects maintained a record of their sleep/wake pattern for a two-three week period.
Athletic performance, including sprinting and hitting drills, was reported after every practice. Athletes then extended their sleep to ten hours a night for six weeks. Mood and daytime sleepiness were recorded. Furthermore, daily sleep/wake activities were monitored using sleep journals and actigraphy.
Results suggested that sleep extension in athletes was associated with a faster sprinting drill (approximately 19.12 seconds at the beginning of the study versus 17.56 seconds after sleep extension), increased hitting depth drill (10.85 hits versus 15.45 hits) and increased hitting accuracy including valid serves (12.6 serves compared to 15.61 serves).
According to Mah, findings of this study could be relevant to other sports, in that daytime sleepiness could be reduced and mood and athletic performance could improve.
The results of this study were presented Monday at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.