Optimizing sleep to maximize performance: implications and recommendations for elite athletes

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2017 Mar;27(3):266-274. doi: 10.1111/sms.12703. Epub 2016 Jul 1.


Despite a growing body of literature demonstrating a positive relationship between sleep and optimal performance, athletes often have low sleep quality and quantity. Insufficient sleep among athletes may be due to scheduling constraints and the low priority of sleep relative to other training demands, as well as a lack of awareness of the role of sleep in optimizing athletic performance. Domains of athletic performance (e.g., speed and endurance), neurocognitive function (e.g., attention and memory), and physical health (e.g., illness and injury risk, and weight maintenance) have all been shown to be negatively affected by insufficient sleep or experimentally modeled sleep restriction. However, healthy adults are notoriously poor at self-assessing the magnitude of the impact of sleep loss, underscoring the need for increased awareness of the importance of sleep among both elite athletes and practitioners managing their care. Strategies to optimize sleep quality and quantity in athletes include approaches for expanding total sleep duration, improving sleep environment, and identifying potential sleep disorders.

Keywords: Athletic performance; cognitive function; insufficient sleep; sleep restriction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Injuries
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Attention
  • Body Weight
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Physical Endurance
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Hygiene*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy
  • Sleep*