How Much Sleep do I Need as an Athlete?

How Much Sleep do I Need

As with many facets of the human body, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Overall, research recommends that for healthy young adults and adults with normal sleep patterns, 7–9 hours is suitable.

And if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven’t had enough.

How much sleep do I need?

The amount an individual needs depends on many things, including their age. As a general guideline, individuals need approximately the following hours per day:

  1. Infants (ages 0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  2. Infants (ages 4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  3. Toddlers (ages 1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  4. Preschool children (ages 3-5): 10-13 hours
  5. An elementary school-age child (ages 6-13): 9-11 hours
  6. Teens (ages 14-17): 8-10 hours
  7. Most adults: 7 to 9 hours
  8. Some adults: may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours
  9. Older adults (ages 65 and older): 7-8 hours
  10. Pregnant women: Several more hours than usual

But what about athletes and those starting or maintaining an exercise regimen? How much sleep do I need? Let’s look at some recent studies’ recommendation for an athlete’s basic needs and ideal optimization on the science of sleep.

Exercise effects

Without any medication and or changes to diet, middle-aged women significantly improved sleep quality with aerobic activity, such as jogging, running, cycling, swimming, and walking.

Improve athletic performance and recovery

The results suggest that patterns and habits play an essential role in some, but not all, aspects of athletes’ performance and recovery.

  1. Longer at night (sleep extension).
  2. The time during the day (napping).
  3. Quality (sleep hygiene).

Effects of sleep deprivation on endurance cycling performance

How much sleep do I need to perform better? Simply put, the more you sleep, the better impact on performance and recovery. If you want to be an elite athlete, you likely need to increase your shut eye and accept that you cannot catch up on the weekend from long term sleep deprivation.  

Researchers also found evidence that the subjective rate of perceived exertion was higher on day 2 of sleep deprivation than on day 1. Athletes felt like they were working harder than they were because of the schedule.

Napping in athletes

Athletes’ napping is not necessarily due to sleepiness, as referenced in the introduction. They are an anomaly given the demands of their sport. Elite athletes learn to have a higher capacity for a nap on demand. While good athletes have similar individual habits, but it’s more variable.

Young athletes

Factors such as school work, extracurricular activities, and athletics may prevent adequate sleep, and adolescents need more than adults. Young athletes are at increased risk for a sleep disorder, and more research is required to determine the effects of training schedules and competitions.

Train hard, sleep well in each stage

Training load was not associated with duration but was associated with wake after onset. Deep sleep increased in proportion to the training load. The current study indicates that quantity and stage distributions remain unrelated to variations in perceived training load.

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