If you are only getting 8 hours of sleep, then you are losing the sleep game.

8 hours is okay for average adults. But if you are an elite athlete doing vigorous activity most days of the week and, especially if you are under 25 years old, I challenge you to win the sleep game by getting 9+ hours of sleep per night including naps.

If you think 9 hours is a lot, check out Neuroscientist, Matthew Walker. He has worked with professional athletes like Roger Feder and Lebron James to help them both get upwards of 12 hours of sleep per day.

Sleep, just like strength, speed, skills, and mindset – can give you a competitive edge. In fact, sleep is one of the most important factors to your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

From a performance standpoint, here is why you need to be getting 9+ hours of sleep per night:

  • Increase your ability to concentrate and be mentally sharp
  • Increase your ability to regulate your emotions and respond effectively to stressful situations
  • Optimize your physical, technical and cognitive development

Just imagine getting only 4 hours of sleep for a whole week then go play a big game – you will struggle to be composed, confident, resilient, and focused. Although that is an extreme example, it is the same effect when you only get 7 hours of sleep per night all week.

After night one you are short by 2 hours.

After night two it doubles to 4 hours short.

Then 6, 8, and by the end of the week you are over 10 hours short.

This compounds week after week – this is sleep deprivation and it is a real problem most athletes don’t realize they have.

You might get used to it, but your body is still suffering and craves the regular 9 plus hours per night.

Every night you don’t hit 9 hours you are depriving your body of the sleep it needs, and you are losing the sleep game.

Sleeping on Weekends is NOT the Solution

Does getting 11 hours on Saturday make up for it? …. NOPE!!!

Sleep consistency can be more important than sleep duration.

Take for example:

Even though person B got more hours of sleep, person A has the advantage. One of the main benefits will be improved sleep quality. Your body gets in a routine and the quality of sleep improves.

It is generally difficult to have the exact same sleep and wake times every night, but this is one of the most important components of quality sleep.

The variable schedules in sports can make it hard to always win the sleep game. But it’s your responsibility to make the most out of your situation.

Find Solutions Not Excuses

The best way to start getting more sleep is to start tracking your sleep. You can’t hide from the data. By measuring it and seeing the hard numbers you will naturally find ways to start winning the sleep game.

The good news is there are various apps to help track the quality of sleep as well as many other important metrics and data – notably the Whoop – is one I’ve used personally and have had many of my athletes utilize.

The most common excuse for a lack of sleep has to do with going to bed on time. You can either make up excuses or find a way. You have a lot of homework to do, then get it done early. You have late practices, then find time to get in a nap.

We see athletes going to bed too late, yet they spend 2 to 3 hours a day on various social media apps. If that is you, that is a red flag – get off your phone and go to sleep.

The bottom line is you can’t say yes to everything. Decide what you need to say no to, so that you can say yes to sleep.

Additionally, you can set an alarm that reminds you to start your night time routine and get to bed on time. If you really need the help, then get an accountability partner and set some consequences if you don’t follow through.

Additional Sleep Tips & Relaxation Techniques

Often as an athlete you have a late night game or training session – this can be difficult to fall asleep afterwards. Relaxation techniques can be used to help you fall asleep at night but also to help you relax during the day.

Relaxing your body helps regulate stress, improves arousal control (emotional regulation), increases self-awareness, optimizes recovery, calms the mind, improves focus, and enhances performance.

The top relaxation techniques we use with athletes include: diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic therapy, and non-sleep deep rest. Click here for my favorite relaxation technique to use when you are hyped up after a game and need to get some sleep.

In addition to relaxation techniques you want to develop a routine that works for you here. Here are some additional tips to incorporate to optimize both your quality and quantity of sleep:

  • Leave phone, iPad, & TV out of bedroom or away from bed
  • Find a consistent nap time that works for you
  • Limit caffeine; have none after 2 pm
  • Decrease screen time before bed
  • Keep bedroom cold & dark
  • Get more morning sunlight
  • Have white noise in the room

I hope you found this helpful.

Please share this with anyone you think would be interested.