Sleep is one of the most neglected aspects of an athlete’s performance that could significantly optimize physical abilities.

In fact, many world-class athletes place great emphasis on the number of hours they sleep. For instance, Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, sleeps around 12 hours per day. Roger divides this time by sleeping 10 hours during the night and napping for 2 hours.

Another example would be Usain Bolt, who currently holds the world record for the fastest 100-meter sprint, sleeps around 10–12 hours a day.

These elite athletes realized the value of sleep and how it affects their physical performance, and so should you.

Note that sleeping after exercise is as important as sleeping beforehand. Additionally, scientists found a connection between poor sleep quality and immune dysfunction.

In this article, we will cover the role of sleep in boosting your physical performance and immune system.

What happens when an athlete does not sleep enough?

Sleeping 6 hours or less can have detrimental effects on the athlete’s performance.

According to one study, sleep deprivation can drop time to physical exhaustion by up to 30%. Differently put, if you usually run for 30 minutes before you start feeling tired, not getting enough sleep would trigger exhaustion after 20 minutes of running.

Moreover, sleep deprivation reduces your muscle strength and ability to exchange gases with the environment (CO2 will take more time to leave your system). Your sweat response will also get compromised.

Finally, a study found a linear relationship between the number of sleep athletes get and their risk of physical injuries. For those who sleep 6 hours or less, their risk of injury during one season is around 80%. This number drops to 15–20% if the athletes are sleeping 9 hours per day.

How does sleep affect immune function?

Inflammation is the first response triggered by the immune system when a foreign pathogen invades your body. The purpose of this reaction is to corner the pathogen and destroy it.

To regulate this response, the body incorporates two types of molecules:

  • Pro-inflammatory compounds
  • Anti-inflammatory substances

Unfortunately, this system is subject to frequent dysfunction, which leads to chronic inflammation – a process thought to be directly involved in numerous diseases.

In a 2013 study, researchers concluded that partial sleep restriction led to the overstimulation of the inflammatory signaling pathways. Consequently, people were more likely to develop allergies, autoimmune diseases, and cardiometabolic illnesses.

The good news is that sleeping for 7–9 hours while maintaining proper sleep hygiene optimizes the regulation of this system. As a result, your immune cells become more efficient at identifying and killing foreign invaders.

Takeaway message

Sleeping enough hours is absolutely vital for optimizing your physical performance and reaching a top-level tier. It is also important to boost the function of your immune system and lower the risk of certain infections.

We hope that this article managed to highlight the role of sleep in improving physical performance and boosting the immune system.


Here’s to your health!

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Disclaimer:  This information is provided as an educational service only, and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.  Anyone seeking specific medical advice or assistance should consult his or her doctor or orthopedic surgeon.