The importance of good recovery strategies to help maintain sporting performance is increasingly being recognised by players and support staff. While there are a range of strategies that can be employed, the importance of sleep should not be underestimated. In this review article, published in the BJSM, a panel of international experts review the evidence relating to sleep and performance and provide expert recommendations.1
There is an increasing body of literature relating to the impact of sleep on an athlete’s health and performance. This paper presents a literature review conducted by a panel of international experts, involving more than 1000 publications. The resulting paper presents what is currently known about sleep and athletic performance. In general it would appear that elite athletes are susceptible to “sleep inadequacy”. There are a range of factors that may contribute to this. In some cases the player’s training volume may itself be a contributing factor while in other cases scheduling or the use of supplements (like caffeine) may also play a role. Studies reporting global sleep quality show that up to three quarters of elite athletes experience sleep disturbance and approximately a quarter suffer highly disturbed sleep.
As part of the review the authors create an evidence based “sleep tool box” for clinicians to use to help guide them when evaluating players. Four key strategies were outlined. Firstly clinicians should consider providing education for all players (and other stakeholders) to illustrate the importance of sleep for athletic performance and to share strategies that might help to improve the player’s sleep. Secondly players should be screened regularly for sleep problems (for example using a validated sleep questionnaire). Thirdly the authors advocate regular napping, especially where the player’s daily routine (training times, fixture scheduling or travel) might impact their night-time sleep. Finally players should be encouraged to ‘bank’ sleep wherever possible. This strategy has the potential to improve athlete performance and mood and reduce stress levels. This tool may be a good way to ease anxiety leading into an important competition.
1. Walsh NP, Halson SL, Sargent C, et al Sleep and the athlete: narrative review and 2021 expert consensus recommendations British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 03 November 2020. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2020-102025