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Sleep and athletic performance

Professional athletes, they’re just like us – they love sleep!

Within the past decade, there have been hundreds of studies on the correlation between sleep and athletic performance. And science is hardly controversial in this case: nearly all the research agrees that quality sleep leads to better results on the roads, trails, courts, or fields. (Namely, sleep improves reaction times, reduces injury rates, leads to longer careers, and decreases mistakes and mental errors.)

Don’t just take it from researchers, scientists, and people who have devoted their entire careers to studying the topic – take it from these five professional athletes who are playing hard and sleeping harder.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots Quarterback

As the northeast’s most beloved athlete, Brady prioritizes football, family, and sleep. “I think sleep is so important because I break my body down so much with my sport,” Brady tells Parade. “It’s the only place to get the recovery that I need.” Brady says he aims to be asleep by 8:30 PM during football season, and that he wakes up by 5:30 AM.

“There are so many people studying sleep now who realize that this is important, it’s not something you can skip for years and years and years and think you can get away with it,” says Brady, who prefers sleeping in a cold, dark room (much to supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen’s dismay – he says Bündchen likes a warm sleeping space). But despite his best efforts, Brady admits that he doesn’t always sleep well. “Early in the week, when I’m really anxious, when I’m deciding what to do, what our strategy is going to be, it’s harder to sleep,” he says. “As we get closer to the end of the week, I sleep better.”

Michelle Wie, Golfer

Wie made her mark as a child prodigy on the golf course. Her other bragging point: sleeping for 16 hours once, she tells Golf Digest. “Early in the week of the Sony Open, I went to bed at 9 PM and woke up at 1 the next day,” she says. “When I can, I’ll sleep more than 12 hours, and I don’t feel very good if I get less than 10. The best thing about that is, there is no such thing as jet lag for me. I can sleep anywhere.”

Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors Basketball Player

Durant hasn’t just earned MVP status on the court – he also strives to be a superstar sleeper. Durant tells the Huffington Post that he aims for eight hours of sleep a night. “I’m up pretty early most days so I can fit in two or three workouts,” he says. “Every day is a new chance to challenge myself and push my training to the next level, but I can only do that if I keep my energy up. Sleep is an important part of that.”

Kerri Walsh Jennings, Olympic Volleyball Player

The three-time Olympic gold medalist and mom of three says her biggest challenge isn’t her opponents across the net – it’s getting enough sleep. “It took me my whole life to get to this point where I now understand the total value of sleep,” Walsh Jennings tells the Huffington Post. “Ideally I get eight hours of sleep – I average probably around seven, which is way better than it was before. I wish I could talk to my 18-year-old self, so I could commit to going to bed early so that I could wake up early. It’s that important.” But even when it’s hard to squeeze in the snoozing time, Walsh Jennings says it makes her so much more successful on and off the court. “I’m better in all areas,” she says.

Travis Ganong, Alpine Ski Racer

Olympian Travis Ganong makes flying down a mountain look easy – perhaps in part because he’s so well-rested. Ganong aims for eight hours a night, and loves a midday nap. “Feeling rested and ready is so important, not just physically but mentally,” he tells Van Winkle’s. “As a ski racer, we face so many variables, be it wind, fog, snow conditions or deteriorating snow surface, and sleep is a variable that you can control as an athlete. His best tip for ensuring solid shut-eye? Logging offline at bedtime. “If I’m on my phone looking at a screen just before bed, I have trouble falling asleep, so I try to avoid that,” he says. “Also traveling with an eye mask can help and taking some melatonin before big days to help me find a peaceful sleep. Otherwise I find myself thinking too much about the next day and tossing and turning.”

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

Sleep and performance Will Leer
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