The Importance of Restorative Sleep for Sports Performance

Adequate restorative sleep has a positive influence on sports performance. On the contrary, a bad rest will reduce your power and endurance.
The Importance of Restorative Sleep for Sports Performance
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 25 March, 2023

To perform well in the gym or in sports, it’s not only necessary to have a healthy diet and long hours of training. Daily rest also plays a fundamental role. Below, we will explain the importance of restorative sleep for sports performance and how to take advantage of all the benefits of physical activity.

Usually, athletes and beginner athletes are focused only on their training and nutrition, forgetting the great role that rest plays for their physical and mental well-being. However, a person’s quality of sleep can be affected for multiple reasons and prevent proper recovery and regeneration of the body.

Why is restorative sleep necessary for athletes?

Sleep is a vital and indispensable component of human health and well-being. It not only has a significant impact on muscle growth and emotional regulation, but also on cognitive performance and quality of life.

During sleep, the body produces hormones and biomolecules important for recovery, such as growth hormone, testosterone and ATP (the main source of energy used by muscles during exercise). Daily rest also helps regulate the immune system, repair damaged tissues and reduce stress and fatigue; this, in turn, improves concentration, memory, and decision making.

Because of the above, when talking about sports performance, restorative sleep is more relevant than many athletes believe. This is because multiple studies report that, in addition to being an integral part of the sports recovery and adaptation process, better sleep quality and duration is associated with optimal performance and competitive success.

Also, research has suggested that sleeping less than 7 hours makes athletes more at risk of injury and illness. So, understanding the importance of daily rest not only for athletes, but for human beings in general, is essential to take care of your physical and mental health after training.

Factors that can affect the quality of your sleep

There are several things that can have a negative impact on the quality of sleep of athletes. Learning to recognize them and implementing strategies to avoid them will make a big difference in athletes’ performance and improve their fitness.

Here are some of the most common:

1. An athlete’s lifestyle

Estilo de vida y horas de sueño en los deportistas.
Athlete lifestyle involves everything that affects performance, including sleep.

Athletes who have irregular schedules, travel frequently, use recreational drugs, or have a high level of stress may experience difficulty falling asleep or maintaining a consistent sleep pattern.

It’s important to implement schedules and routines, not only to ensure good training and nutrition, but also to ensure restful sleep. This includes avoiding harmful substances that can affect normal sleep cycles (such as caffeine, alcohol, and marijuana).

2. Inadequate sleeping environment

The place where you rest has a direct impact on the quality of your sleep. After all, it’s not the same to sleep in a clean, ventilated and dimly lit room as it is to sleep in a dirty bedroom with noise and an inadequate mattress or pillow.

It’s best to sleep in a room where there are no loud and sudden sounds that wake up the sleeper or prevent him/her from falling asleep in the first place. Avoid bedrooms that are too brightly lit or too warm, which can interfere with melatonin production. And, in turn, choose a pocket spring mattress that’s not too soft or hard to sleep comfortably and prevents back or neck pain.

3. Poor nutrition

Nutrición deportiva.
Choosing the right foods is an important part of any training plan. The wrong diet can also disrupt sleep patterns.

Nutrition can also influence the ability to get restful sleep. Athletes who consume foods high in caffeine or sugar may have trouble falling asleep or maintaining deep rest. On the other hand, a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals can improve sleep quality.

It’s best to consume foods rich in tryptophan or carbohydrates, such as chicken, fish, cheese, potatoes and egg whites. Also, meals rich in fat should be avoided before bedtime, because they can reduce the number of hours of sleep.

4. The training and competition environment

The place where training and sports competitions take place can affect the quality of your sleep. For example, people who train in noisy or poorly lit environments often have difficulty sleeping. In addition, nighttime exercise can disrupt an athlete’s normal sleep pattern.

5. Restorative sleep can be prevented by injuries and breathing problems

When an athlete suffers a serious injury, he or she may experience night pains that prevent restful sleep. In these cases, supplements containing melatonin or magnesium can be used under medical approval to facilitate rest.

On the other hand, when suffering from allergies and respiratory problems, such as sleep apnea, it may be very difficult to fall asleep. In this case, it’s best to get professional medical attention to find a timely solution.

6. Psychological factors

Stress, anxiety, and depression can affect the quality of daily rest. Athletes who experience these emotional states should seek psychological help to improve their emotional well-being and be able to consistently get more restorative sleep

Restorative sleep and sports performance are closely linked

Daily rest is a key aspect of athletes’ sports performance. A lack of sleep can negatively affect coordination, speed, strength and precision of movements. It can also increase the risk of injury.

So, to avoid these disadvantages, athletes should pay special attention to factors that can affect their quality of sleep, such as their training schedule, sleeping environment, and the consumption of substances that can affect sleep, among other things.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Charest J, Grandner MA. (2019). Sleep and Athletic Performance: Impacts on Physical Performance, Mental Performance, Injury Risk and Recovery, and Mental Health. Sleep Med Clin. 2020 Mar;15(1):41-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jsmc.2019.11.005. PMID: 32005349; PMCID: PMC9960533.
  • Riederer MF. (2020). How Sleep Impacts Performance in Youth Athletes. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2020 Nov;19(11):463-467. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000771. PMID: 33156032.
  • Sargent C, Lastella M, Halson SL, Roach GD. (2014). The impact of training schedules on the sleep and fatigue of elite athletes. Chronobiol Int. 2014 Dec;31(10):1160-8. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2014.957306. Epub 2014 Sep 15. PMID: 25222347.
  • Watson AM. (2017). Sleep and Athletic Performance. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2017 Nov/Dec;16(6):413-418. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000418. PMID: 29135639.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.