The athletic advantage of sleep, although commonly touted by coaches, trainers, and sports physicians, is still unclear and likely varies by sport, athletic performance metric, and length of sufficient or insufficient sleep. Although recent literature reviews have highlighted circadian and nutritional factors that influence different aspects of athletic performance, a systematic summary of the effects of sleep duration and sleep quality on performance among competitive athletes is lacking. Here we systematically review the relationship between sleep duration and sleep quality and objective athletic performance among competitive athletes across 19 studies representing 12 sports. Taken holistically, we find that the sports requiring speed, tactical strategy, and technical skill are most sensitive to sleep duration manipulations. Furthermore, longer-term sleep manipulations are more likely than acute sleep manipulations (whether deprivation or extension) to affect athletic performance. Thus, the importance of sleep for competitive athletes to achieve high performance is dependent on the demands of the sport as well as the length of sleep interventions. In light of the limited number of studies investigating sleep quality and performance, the potential relevance of subjective sleep quality remains an interesting question for future work.
*Medical Scientist Training Program, Stony Brook Medicine, Stony Brook, New York;
†Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York;
‡Department of Sociology; and
§Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine, Stony Brook Medicine; Program in Public Health, Stony Brook, New York.
Corresponding Author: Gregory W. Kirschen, PhD, Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8338, Gregory.firstname.lastname@example.org.
L. Hale currently receives partial salary support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NIH R01 HD 073352) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01 HL 122460). She also sits on the Board of Directors for the National Sleep Foundation and Sleep, Inc, and receives an honorarium from the National Sleep Foundation for her role as Editor-in-Chief of Sleep Health.
The authors report no conflicts of interest.
Received September 25, 2017
Accepted April 29, 2018