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Can Sleep Improve Your Athletic Performance?

Sleep Tips for Athletes

Getting enough sleep is easier said than done -- especially for athletes.

"I suspect that sleep problems in athletes are more common than we think," says Geier. A lot of things can get in the way of their sleep – travel for away games, practices early in the morning or games late in the evening, and the stress that athletes may feel before a competition.

Here are four ways athletes can improve their sleep.

  1. Get on a regular schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  2. When you travel, give yourself time to acclimate. If you're traveling for an athletic competition, it's a good idea to get there a few days early – or even weeks – Stoler says. That way, your body can adjust and you have time to get on a normal sleep schedule.
  3. Avoid sleep medication. "Unless a doctor has prescribed it, don't take any sleep medications," says Thornton. Over-the-counter sleep aids are likely to disturb the quality of your sleep and your performance the next day. Relying on natural relaxation techniques before bed – such as deep breathing – is a better approach, he says.
  4. Reduce alcohol and caffeine. "Two or three days before a competition, start cutting back on caffeine and alcohol," Geier says. "You want to avoid anything that could disrupt your sleep."

Remember that even when you're not in training, sleep should still be a priority. Getting enough sleep doesn't only help with athletic performance. It can do so much more – increasing your resistance to colds, reducing pain, improving your memory, and helping you lose weight. No wonder drug has more benefits – for your game or your life – than an extra hour of sleep.

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Reviewed on June 17, 2012

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