Sleep in for a Better Workout

Hitting the gym today? Hit the snooze button first

Runners, take note: If you can’t seem to beat your fastest speed, you may want to spend less time on the track and more hours in the sack.

A new study from Stanford University School of Medicine found that logging extra hours of Zzz’s can help boost athletic performance, which may help leave competitors in the dust. So much for the adage, “you snooze, you lose.”

According to a study, published in the journal SLEEP, getting a good night’s rest the night before a big competition is key -- but it takes more than a single night of shuteye to help athletes perform their best. Instead, mega-dosing on sleep by getting up to 10 hours a night for several weeks could help athletes set their best all-time records.

The study, which focused on college-level basketball players, found that increasing sleep time from their six-to-nine-hour average to 10 hours a night led to faster sprint times and increased free-throws over the course of five to seven weeks. The athletes also reported increased energy levels and improved mood, and decreased levels of fatigue during practices and games.

While this study was aimed at basketball players, the scientists’ past research in swimmers, tennis players and football players all showed similar results. Football players, for instance, shaved 10 seconds off their 40-yard dash times. “Data from my other studies of different sports suggests that athletes across all sports can greatly benefit from extra sleep and gain the additional competitive edge to perform at their highest level,” said the study’s lead author, Cheri Mah, of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, in a written statement.

Even if you aren't a runner (or basketball player), if you do any kind of exercise, you're likely to get the best results if you aren't sleep deprived. Besides, researchers haven’t found too many health benefits from skipping out on sleep. Consistently getting a solid night’s rest can still help you power through your day. Sleep also helps us cope better with stress and perform better at work. It helps our kids get good grades. And it may even help us lose weight.

Since it takes more than a weekend to catch up on sleep, your best strategy is to consistantly get sleep. Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. You may just find yourself jogging circles around your sleep-deprived running mates.

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