It may surprise athletes to know that improving athletic performance may be as easy as getting enough sleep.

Sleep is something that many athletes overlook. They train hard and focus on their diets to the point that they don’t realize that they’re overworking themselves. They hit the sack exhausted and put in a few hours of sleep and wake up the next morning to eat and breathe training all over again.

Athletes need to recognize that beyond the quantity of sleep, the quality of sleep is just as crucial to playing at peak performance. When sleep is cut short or disturbed, the body doesn’t have adequate time to repair itself. You wake up tired and maybe even cranky.

The bottom line is that when we don’t sleep well, we don’t perform well.

To validate this point, the Stanford University team tracked the sleeping habits of their players for several months. When players added an average of 2 hours of sleep on top of the amount of sleep they normally had, their speed was increased by 5%, free throws were 9% more accurate, Overall, the players had faster reflexes. And they felt happier, in general.

What happens when athletes don’t get enough sleep?

When athletes don’t get enough sleep, they may wake up stressed. Their reaction times are slower making them more susceptible to injuries. And in the event that they do get injured, not getting enough sleep following an injury means longer recovery time.

Your body recovers in your sleep; it’s the time your muscles repair and regenerate themselves before you use them again. If you don’t get enough sleep and wake up only to engage in more strenuous activity, you risk further damaging your muscles and making your injury worse.

What happens when athletes get more than enough sleep?

Regular people require 7-9 hours of sleep. But because athletes engage in high impact and rigorous training, their demands for sleep are different. Most experts say that an athlete should get at least 10 hours of sleep every night.

When an athlete gets adequate sleep, they’re faster and more intense. Because they are well-rested, their moods are better and they are more alert. Their coordination is better because their level of concentration is improved.

To improve your sleeping habits, try sleeping on regular schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same every day. This will condition your body and falling asleep will be easier because your body will get used to your routine.

Don’t rely on sleep medication. While they may make you sleep faster, they may affect your performance the following day. And that’s the last thing you want especially if you have a big game the next day.