Research scientists and sleep medicine doctors share the counsel they give to the fittest bodies.
Just because you don't compete on the level of a professional athlete doesn't mean you don't want to employ the strategies they use to build those superior physiques. If you're skimping on sleep, though, you may as well throw in the proverbial towel. “No matter how good your nutrition is, no matter how good your exercise routine is, if your sleep isn’t any good, the other two don’t matter—that’s a brave statement, but it’s true,” says James Maas, Ph.D., a sleep and performance expert who works with professional and collegiate athletes.
Maas estimates 75 percent of athletes are deprived—which can lower immunity, alter cognition, slow reaction time, and lengthen recovery, he says. But until recently, athletes, physicians with little training in sleep medicine, and coaches who didn’t understand the shuteye/success link shared a blasé attitude toward sleep. Today, teams are smartening up, and even hiring sleep consultants.
“Athletes are always looking for the silver bullet—that ‘something’ that will make them play better than their opponents,” says Maas. “I think we have that silver bullet: sleep.”
Below, top sleep experts share their best sleep advice for athletes, specifically: