By Guest Blogger & Sleep Expert: Sara Westgreen 

As you progress in your training, you probably think about a lot of things that will improve your performance. You might improve your diet, lose weight, or work on your weaknesses. One thing that many athletes forget about, though, is their sleep.

Sure, sleep gives you energy, but does it do much else to help you perform? As it turns out, rest is closely tied to athletic performance. It allows your body to function at its best so you can improve on the activities you love.

Sleep and Injuries

Sleep seems to help your body avoid injury. Adolescent athletes who slept less than 8 hours every night were 1.7 times more likely to have injuries than those who slept 8 or more hours at night. Sure, these are growing bodies, but it makes sense. The body works to repair itself during sleep, healing torn muscles, and tendons, etc. If your body doesn’t get as long to work on itself, then it is more likely that those small tears could turn into an injury.

Rest and Performance

Sleep ties closely to performance, too. Basketball players who increased their sleep to at least 10 hours every night improved their sprint times and their accuracy. Their reaction times quickened, and their vigor increased during the sleep extension. In addition, they felt better during games, taking things more in stride than when they weren’t sleeping as much. In fact, across many athletes and sports, extending sleep leads to better performance.

Improve Your Sleep to Improve Your Performance

If you want to avoid injury and improve your game, it seems like you need to improve your sleep. Improving your sleep means staying asleep longer, but it also means making sure the rest you get is of as high a quality as possible. Here are some steps you can take to do that.

  • Prioritize sleep. Sure, you are an athlete in addition to a lot of other things, and all of those things take time. However, sleep will likely help you do most of them better. Make rest important to you. Choose to sleep when you could choose to stay up and do other things.

  • Make a plan. Decide when you need to go to bed and when you want to be up in the morning. Make sure you have at least 8 hours in there to sleep (and that’s AFTER you take the time to fall asleep). Sticking to a schedule will make it easier for you to get the rest you need.

  • Consider a new mattress. If you’re not comfortable in bed, you won’t want to go there, and you won’t sleep as well once you are there. Try out some beds in stores or buy one with a trial period online, so you can make sure you get just the right mattress for you.

Don’t let a lack of sleep keep you from athletic excellence. Get the rest you need so you can perform your best.