Want to Win at Swim (or Soccer or Lax)? Get More Sleep

Have you ever caught your son playing Fortnite at midnight with his friends after he “went to bed at 9?” Or pleaded with your daughter, “Please put the phone down and go to bed!”? Not that this happens in my house, but…. more and more studies offer powerful data that lack of sleep tonight could mean losing the race, the soccer game or the tennis match tomorrow.  Wish I’d known that as a high school and college athlete!

In a study of five students on the Stanford University men’s and women’s swimming teams, Cheri Mah , of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, had swimmers maintain their usual sleep pattern for two weeks. Then, they extended their sleep to 10 hours a day for six to seven weeks.  Their performance was measured after each practice and the results were amazing:  after the weeks of extra sleep, “athletes swam a 15-meter (50 feet) sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds and increased kick strokes by 5.0 kicks” Mah also studied the men’s basketball team at Stanford, seeing improvements in free throw points and sprint times after more sleep.

How much sleep is enough?  Lindsay Vonn, two-time world champion skier and Olympic gold medalist says, “I love sleep. I’m a good sleeper. I take naps every day. I try to get at least 10 hours of sleep a night.”  The National Sleep Association suggests the following basic guidelines (and athletes need even more):

  • School age kids (6-13 yrs) need 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17 yrs) need 8-10 hours
  • Young adults (18-25 yrs) need 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (over 26) need 7-9 hours

Over the years, Mah and her colleagues have worked with many Stanford athletic teams, and she noted that during these studies, “Many of the athletes, including the swimmers, set multiple new personal records and season best times, AND broke long-standing Stanford and American records.” So, if making it to Nationals is more important than winning at Overwatch, this article may help you strengthen your position in your evening bedtime battles. I’m certainly going to try it!