This is part 3 of our week long series exploring all the benefits a great night of sleep has on your athletic performance. Today we will examine sleep and how sleep deprivation can impact your athletic performance. Did you miss an earlier post? Find them all below:

Sleep and sleep deprivation has some interesting effects on your ability to perform at your very best.


You already know that sleep will help you body recover faster. But did you know that sleep is also responsible for helping you reach your maximum athletic performance? Sleep is the body’s natural performance enhancing drug, and it’s a “drug” you need to be taking to reach peak athletic performance. Here’s why:


It’s funny how even a fraction of a second can make all the difference in how you perform. From seeing a play unfold to crossing the finish line first, your reaction time plays a critical role in your overall athletic performance.

There is a clear tied between sleep deprivation and a reduction in reaction times. Studies have shown even a single night of sleep deprivation can reduce reaction times by more than 300%. Additionally, it has been found that the low level of fatigue that comes with a night of no sleep can impair reaction times as much, if not more, than being legally drunk.

Being awake for 22 hours straight can slow your reaction time more than four alcoholic drinks can.

Obviously, there are differences between a night of no sleep and being intoxicated. Nevertheless, if an athlete wouldn’t expect to have faster reaction times after putting back a couple cold of ones, they can’t expect to perform their best on less than a full night’s sleep either.


As little as one night of sleep deprivation can also decrease your physical endurance. A study showed that athletes ran significantly less distances after a night of sleep deprivation. Interestingly, despite running less distance when the athletes were sleep deprived, the athlete’s perception of effort was the same.

Basically, that means that after a night of poor sleep, your body will feel like it’s working as hard as if you had just gotten a full night of sleep. However, you are actually putting out less effort. How can you reasonably expect to see better results if you are not pushing your body to its maximum effort?


You do everything from stretching and muscle activation to wearing the proper equipment all to prevent injury. Getting a night of quality sleep should now be added to your daily routine.

The hours of sleep and athlete gets is the strongest predictor of injuries, even more so than the hours of practice.

Sleep will help you prevent injuries during training sessions as well as in competition.

Sleep And Training

There are a few reasons why proper sleep can decrease injury rates. First off, fatigue affects reaction time. We already know that less sleep leads to slower reaction times. A tired athlete will react to a potential hit slower than a rested athlete which can cause injury.

Secondly, your body relies on quality sleep to provide it with sufficient time to regenerate cells and repair from the abuse of workouts and competitions. If your body isn’t fully recovered from your last training session, there’s a higher risk of injury.


Studies have shown that not only will a full night of quality sleep improve your speed but it will also increase your accuracy. Looking at a study of Stanford’s Men’s Basketball team, when players got more sleep, they demonstrated a faster-timed sprint and their shooting accuracy improved. In fact, their free throw percentage and 3 point field goal percentage both increasing by 9%. With more sleep, similar performance improvements have been seen in weight lifters, tennis players, swimmers, and other athletes.

Athlete’s that recognize the importance of sleep can gain a large competitive advantage over their opponent.


Remember how a night of no sleep is equivalent to being legally drunk? Predictably so, sleep loss impairs your judgment. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation will impair an athlete’s motivation, focus, memory, and learning. What happens is sleep loss impairs the frontal lobe of the brain. This has negative effects on your decision-making abilities such as sensitivity to risk-taking, moral reasoning, and inhibitions.

When you apply this learning to athletic performance, an athlete that is sleep deprived will make more mental errors. Take baseball players for example. Common logic would predict that the more times a player is at the plate, the more discipline they would have. Meaning they would swing less at a ball outside of the strike-zone. However, the opposite has been shown to be true. Players consistently showed better judgment at the beginning of the season than at the end. The suspected cause is the mental fatigue suffered during the grueling 162 game season.

Join us tomorrow as we examine what exactly is the best sleep environment for athletes.