The Effect of Sleep Deprivation

From the available data it appears that two phenomena exist. First, the sleep deprivation must be greater than 30 hours to have an impact on performance, and secondly, sustained or repeated bouts of exercise are affected to a greater degree than one-off maximal efforts.

Most athletes are more likely to experience acute bouts of partial sleep deprivation where sleep is reduced for several hours of consecutive nights.

From the available literature it appears that performance in maximal efforts may be unaffected by partial sleep deprivation, however, repeated sub-maximal efforts may be reduced, which is of concern for a basketball athlete as basketball includes repeated “sub-maximal” efforts.

The benefit of napping

Athletes suffering from some degree of sleep loss may benefit from a brief nap, particularly if a training session is to be completed in the afternoon or evening. Napping may be beneficial for athletes who routinely have to wake early for training or competition, and for athletes who are experiencing sleep deprivation.

There is data to support the theory that increasing the amount of sleep an athlete receives may significantly enhance performance.

Practical Recommendations

  • Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle/routine
  • Create a comfortable, quiet, dark and temperature-controlled bedroom
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, large meals and large volumes of fluid prior to bedtime
  • Utilise a ‘to-do’ list or diary to ensure organisation and unnecessary over-thinking whilst trying to sleep