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Athletes’ Magic Pill: A Good Night’s Sleep

Quality sleep impacts overall performance in professional athletes.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Washington Wizards Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Sleep gives elite athletes like Olympic marathoner Becky Wade, Washington Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud, and the NBA’s Washington Wizards an extra edge in training and performance, according to a recent piece by Amanda Loudin of the Washington Post. Sleep expert Chris Winter explains how restorative sleep correlates with an athlete’s longevity, citing research done by Major League Baseball on the subject.

A 2013 study, for instance, piggybacked on early Major League Baseball research to look into the relationship between fatigue and career longevity in the league. It found that the more tired players were — on a self-reported sleepiness scale — the less likely they were to still be in the league at the three-year follow-up point.

“If you’re an athlete who has a long season — like MLB or NBA players — the season catches up to you, particularly if you’re not sleeping well,” Winter says. “Sleep impacts everything.”

The Washington Wizards’ Steve Smith, senior director of health, wellness and performance, elaborates on some of the steps the team has taken to maximize player sleep, including limiting access to electronic devices, streamlining their travel schedule to ensure effective sleep, and focusing on simple sleep hygiene steps.

It’s not hard, says Smith, to predict which athletes will be in the NBA for the long haul. Like Brady in the NFL, they’re the ones who take sleep seriously. “The guys who have a sleep routine and appreciate the value of it are the ones who will make it,” he says. “If they don’t, given equal talent, they will have a shorter career.”

While athletes know that sleep for recovery is crucial, both Becky Wade and Natasha Cloud expressed how anxiety-inducing getting enough sleep can be. Because of its impact on performance, many know how important it is, yet find it difficult to get due to stress.

Athletes: just like us. You can read more here.