Advance with MUSC Health

Sleep & Athletic Performance

August 29, 2022
A person in bed covered in a sheet except for their athletic shoes.

By Ashley Chrestman MS, SCAT, ATC
MUSC Health Sports Medicine

Science tells us that you don’t get stronger in the gym—that’s what breaks you down. You actually get stronger during rest. Sleep is the time where your muscles repair, regenerate, and prime your mind and body for peak performance. It is recommended that athletes sleep between 7-9 hours each night. A Stanford study of men’s basketball players who extended their sleep to 10 hours a night found that the players could run faster sprints in both half court and full court. Their shooting improved by 9% in both free throws and three-point shots. The athletes reported improving physical and mental well-being. Poor quality and quantity of sleep can have several negative effects on athletic performance such as inhibited ability, decreased accuracy, quicker exhaustion, and decreased reaction time. Studies have shown that middle school and high school sleep deprived athletes have an increased injury rate. Follow these sleep tips to optimize the best athlete you can be.

Tips to Optimize Daytime Behaviors for Sleep:

• Get bright, natural light upon awakening by getting outside within 30 minutes of waking up.
• Schedule your last meal at least 3 hours before bed.
• Hydrate throughout the day and not just before bed. You should consume 1 oz. of water per pound of body weight.
• Avoid PM caffeine—at least 8 hours prior to bedtime.
• Avoid Aspirin and Ibuprofen close to bedtime, as they have been shown to increase time spent awake and delay onset of deep sleep

Tips for an Optimal Sleep Environment:

• Make it dark with blackout shades, an eye mask, and all lights off.
• Keep it quiet with earplugs or a sound machine.
• Keep it cold—about 68 degrees or less. Just make sure to keep your feet and hands warm.

More Sleep Tips:

• Avoid the snooze button!
• Create a pre-bedtime routine.
• After sunset, avoid overhead lights or dim the lights if possible.
• 3 hours before bed, wear blue-light glasses when staring at a screen.
• Eliminate screened devices in bed.
• Read or journal.
• Take a hot shower or bath.
• Try light stretching or yoga.


1. Mah, C. D., Mah, K. E., Kezirian, E. J., & Dement, W. C. (2011). The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34(7), 943–950.

2. Vitale, K. C., Owens, R., Hopkins, S. R., & Malhotra, A. (2019). Sleep Hygiene for Optimizing Recovery in Athletes: Review and Recommendations. International journal of sports medicine, 40(8), 535–543.