The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Health & Family

November 8, 2012

Studies show well-rested athletes of all ages are more competitive

JOPLIN, Mo. — A series of studies confirms something athletic trainers have known for years: Well-rested athletes have an edge in competition.

"I've seen it when I've worked one-day or two-day tournaments," said Mylene Ray, an athletic trainer with Freeman Sports Medicine. "Besides taking in fuel, if they are lacking in sleep, there's more wear on their body."

Sleeping is already critical for children, Ray said. The act of everyday learning and living already keeps the brain busy.

"When you throw in athletics, that's not just cognitive levels, that's physical levels," Ray said. "It's another layer they have to learn and absorb."

According to a report by Lee Bowman of Scripps Howard News Service, plenty of recent research points to players getting a competitive advantage from sleeping:

A series of studies of swimmers, tennis players, football players and basketball players at Stanford University over several years showed that athletes who extended their normal sleep time to eight to 10 hours a night substantially boosted performance.

They ran or swam faster and basketball players bumped up their accuracy on both free throws and three-pointers by about 9 percent. The players also had faster reaction times and improved moods.

Ray said sleep is the perfect way for an athlete to recharge.

"When the body gets enough rest, it's set up to optimize to its full potential," Ray said. "A lack of sleep makes recovery difficult."

And though there isn't sufficient evidence to back it up, Ray said it's reasonable to draw a conclusion between lack of sleep and risk of injury. A Chicago study backs that idea up.

According to Bowman's report, studies at the University of Chicago more than a decade ago showed that as little as one week of sleep deprivation in otherwise healthy young men reduced their ability to metabolize glucose by 30 to 40 percent. They also had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood, which inhibits muscle recovery.

Other research has shown being short on sleep cuts aerobic endurance and makes people feel as though their bodies are working harder.

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