There are a number of factors that determine how on top of your game you will be while at practice or in competition. Some days you will notice you feel pretty awesome – you’re sharp, quick, strong and you feel almost invincible. Others, you are the complete opposite – sluggish, mentally slow, and no drive whatsoever.

Have you ever sat down to think what you did differently in the time leading up to those “off” days? There are so many things to consider with athletic performance and the things you should be doing to make sure you are at your best day in and day out.

There will always be an off day here and there but you need to take the steps to minimize them by making sure you taking care of your physiological needs. One of the most overlooked one by athletes is sleep.

Being a young athlete and full of energy,  you may not think you need as much sleep as others. It’s actually the complete opposite. Being an athlete, you need MORE sleep than those your age not active in sports.

Just as athletes need more calories than most people when they are in training, they need more sleep too. Athletes in training should get about an hour more of sleep. Professional athletes will actually sleep up to around 10 hours a night.

Here is something very interesting. They did a study with the men’s basketball team at Stanford University. They had the players add an average of 2 extra hours of sleep per night. What did they find? Players increased their speed by 5%, their free throws were 9% more accurate, their reflexes were faster and they were happier overall. That is crazy improvement just from some extra sleep!

Can you imagine what this could do for your performance if you are in gymnastics or crossfit training? You will see more power, better focus, more strength, tumble higher, lift more, endure conditioning longer and have more more motivation. This is all from getting proper sleep! I don’t know about you, but I quite enjoy some sleep. So, reconsider your habits if you think it’s fun to tell your buddies that you were up until 2 am playing Call of Duty or chatting online. Now you realize you aren’t playing your sport to your fullest potential.

Here are a few side effects of shorting yourself on sleep:

Delayed reactions, tendency to make mistakes, lack of focus and increase in the risk of accident or injury – Definitely not so desirable side effects for gymnasts.

I think you get the idea of how crucial it is to get adequate sleep. So you probably want to know what you can do to help get good quality sleep.

Here are a few tips for getting the proper amount of sleep:

  1. Get on a regular schedule. Plan on a shut down and wake up around the same time every night. Try to be in your bed, lights out, no TV or facebook, about 10 hours before you have to wake up. This gives you a little time to get to sleep then get the adequate rest you need. You will be amazed how the body will get on a routine and and start to shut down and wake up around the same time on it’s own. You know you are doing things correctly when you wake up naturally (without an alarm) feeling refreshed.
  2. Have a cut off time for caffeine drinks. This should be no later than 6 hrs before bedtime. This one used to be a big problem for me. I used to love to have coffee in the evening and it never dawned on me that was one of the reasons I had trouble falling asleep.
  3. Get your room extremely dark, cool and quiet. If you like to sleep with the TV on or look at your phone a while before going to bed, you are actually throwing off your body clock and stimulating the brain, making it much harder to get to sleep. Consider ear plugs or even eye covers, as goofy as that sounds

If you know you aren’t sleeping enough then remind yourself how much better you will be in the gym if you changed things. I know in high school, I probably averaged about 6.5 hours a night. I had no idea idea the consequences of this. Don’t do that to yourself. Sleep!

Brad Thornton

Strength & Fitness Team Lead




Article by R. Morgan Griffin, WebMD Feature

Article by Tali Yahalom, USA TODAY

Article written by the Mayo Clinic Staff