Sleep is essential for athletic performance. Research has shown there’s a correlation between the amount of sleep you get and the quality of your performance. This stands to reason that besides being better at sports, elite athletes should also be the best sleepers of us all. Or at least you would think. 

A recent study on athlete sleep habits out of Central Queensland University found that an overwhelming number of athletes don’t actually get enough sleep. The study surveyed the habits of 175 Australian National Athletes and monitored their sleep with wrist bands for a couple of weeks. 

Interesting facts from the study: 

  • Athletes who are a part of a team sport averaged 6.9 hours of sleep each night. 
  • Athletes who compete individually averaged 6.4 hours of sleep
  • Sports with the least amount of sleep are swimming and triathlon, likely because of morning training routines. 
  • Basketball players get the most sleep on average. 

Athletes Don’t Sleep as Much as You Think

Athletes like Tom Brady and Michelle Wie have spoken out about the need for an average of eight hours of sleep at night. However, there isn’t a ton of research on exactly how much sleep an athlete needs — or if they need more or less than the average person. When study author Charli Sargent asked participants, “how many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested,” the average answer was 8.3 hours. 

Despite what they said, the athletes’ sleep trackers revealed that they slept only an average of 6.7 hours — a 96-minute deficit from their ideal amount. This shouldn’t come as a total shock. After all, they are humans — which we know comes with the best intentions but too many nights of staying up too late. 

While the findings from this study were extremely telling, it doesn’t go into naps since previous studies show that athletes typically don’t take naps. That may be generally true for most athletes. Still, everyone is different, and we couldn’t help but wonder how many of those athletes take naps throughout the day — particularly after training sessions. A study on college athletes showed that 72% of participants napped regularly. We’d be interested in further investigation to see if napping is more or less common in some sports over others. 

Should You Take Naps During the Day? 

Napping can be a powerful tool to increase mental agility and decrease stress. There are many benefits associated with napping — improved mood, reduced fatigue, improved memory and alertness, and better productivity. 

We know napping is not for everyone, and if you let your naps get out of hand, they can impact how you sleep at night. Napping too late in the day or napping too long can make you feel worse and groggy when you wake up. And it has the potential to interfere with your body’s natural sleep schedule. 

If you’re going to nap, we advise that you keep it short (under 30 minutes) and early in the day. It’s worth noting that napping is not a sufficient way to compensate for sleep deprivation, but it can help you relax and wake up refreshed. 

If We Had to Choose a Bed for an Athlete, It Would Be…

Athletes can sleep on any type of bed and get what they need, so you don’t need to rush out and get a new one. However, if you’re an athlete or a really active person and you’re looking for a mattress that will cater to those needs, we like the Zoma mattress. It’s an affordable, all-foam mattress that unconventionally targets pressure points. 

The foam of the Zoma mattress is specifically designed with a top layer of Triangulex zoned memory foam that delivers pressure relief and support in all the right places. That’s why we think the Zoma mattress is one of the best mattresses for athletes. We also like the cover of this mattress since it wicks heat and moisture away from your body while you sleep.

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

To answer the earlier question we posed, no. You don’t need to sleep like an elite athlete. Sleep is essential for athletes because it helps them recover from training and prepare for competition. But good sleep isn’t just for elite athletes; everyone needs to be mindful of their sleeping habits. When it comes down to it, it’s about how well you sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, ask yourself these questions: 

Is my room the right temperature

Is my mattress right for my needs? 

Do I generally go to bed at the same time each day? 

If you answer no to any of these questions, that’s where you can start your journey to getting better sleep.