| June 12, 2021

Correlation Between Sleep And Athlete Performance

Typically sleep is one of the most misunderstood and commonly less prioritized portions of a day to day routine, without it, maximizing progression is futile. Each person goes through different stages when they sleep.

By Steven Fitzpatrick

Read time: 4 min.

Typically sleep is one of the most misunderstood and commonly less prioritized portions of a day to day routine, without it, maximizing progression is futile. Each person goes through different stages when they sleep. Light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep and periods where we are awake. 

Awake Period - Generally, it is normal to see a person awake for 10-30 minutes each night, there can be a lot of reasons for being woken up during these periods. Some of them are so short that an individual may not even remember them.

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep - This pattern usually occurs first within 90 minutes of falling asleep, and also for extended periods generally up to an hour towards the end of a sleeping period. Consistent REM sleeping patterns play a very strong role in memory and mood, this is where you will find dreams to be more vivid. There are some controllable variables that can negatively impact having a good REM sleep, this can include.

  • Alcohol intake
  • Too hot or cold body temperature (air conditioning or proper blankets)
  • Caffeine or nicotine including other stimulants

Light Sleep - This is the sleeping pattern that makes up most of your night, it is essential to mental and physical restoration, a key component to maximizing this type of pattern is making sure that you properly budget for it - make sure you set a time to turn off your social media, turn your phone off, limit blue light. In fact there is a setting on your phone (if you have a relatively new model, where you can turn this off permanently) blue light can put a limiting capability on the way that our body uses melatonin, this can affect our sleep circadian and rhythm.

Deep Sleep - We have shorter periods of deep sleep than we do light and also less than REM. This type of sleep helps with physical recovery, as well as aspects to memory and learning, a refreshing morning can be a sign that healthy deep sleeping patterns were met during sleep. Deep sleep is when the body is receiving the least amount of outside stimuli; breathing slows; muscles relax; heart rate is more consistently steady.

There are several reasons why it is so important to get a good sleep and make sure that it is recurring. There will always be barriers or reasons to not get good sleeping patterns, an individual needs to find a way to pinpoint and lessen these obstacles if they want to reach their goals in the best way possible, it goes without saying that one will lead and live a much happier, less stressful life.

The following are some methods to help you along your way to really maximize your sleeping patterns:

Room temperature - Between a fan and an air conditioning unit, an AC unit has to be one of the best investments you can make in regards to controlling room temperature consistently. When people think AC, they think strictly cold, however you can choose the degree of temperature through the settings of most air conditioning units, this allows for the versatility of how each individual will favor a different body temperature as they sleep, this, along with a fan can help to circulate oxygen and temperature, it can also help to create white noise, which can help those who are light sleepers in terms of immediate change in audio.

Humidifier - Having a humidifier is a great idea, especially if you live in a colder climate, it tends to get very dry, which can lead to poor sleeping patterns, again most humidifiers have control modification so that you can choose the proper amount of moisture for that said environment.

Black out blinds - These types of blinds can be especially useful for shift workers or those who may have working shifts that do not allow them to sleep when the sun is down, the darker the space, the better chance that you have a deeper sleep, as natural light disrupts sleeping patterns in some individuals.

Magnesium - Given that magnesium is commonly lacking in the standard diet and lifestyle, alongside with the fact that a lot of habits may have leech magnesium, taking it before bed may help to relax the muscles and nerve cells, reduce stress, and aid in digestion.

Proper bed - In terms of comfort, it is essential that your bed and pillow set is one that suits you. The weight of your blanket can affect how much you toss and turn, some may prefer a heavier or weighted comforter, this may help to reduce anxiety and stress, whereas others may require the thinnest blanket they are able to get their hands on. Pillows range from soft to hard, memory foam to water. It is important to figure out which is most suitable, it may be a good idea to purchase at least one of each and test them out for a week separately to really learn what best suits your need for sleep.

Do your best to avoid sleeping on your stomach - This one hits home for me, being a stomach sleeper is something that has been a habit for several years, it just feels most comfortable, it does however put a copious amount of strain on your neck and can make the shoulders severely tight with time. If possible, it is best to form a habit of sleeping on your back, which can take time in itself.

The advice above are some of the things you can do to maximize your performance as an athlete or just a day to day gym goer, there is no argument that the better the sleep, the better outlook you will have, not only on your training, but life as a whole.

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