No sleep reduces in the short run the endurance performance and a short night’s sleep reduces the accuracy and attention of athletes. It also appears those athletes have a higher risk of injuries and illnesses when they have longer time sleep deprivation. On the other hand a longer sleep can normally improve athletic performance.

On average a person needs seven to nine hours of sleep each night. How long exactly this should be differs with each individual, but in less than seven hours of sleep per night there is a lack of sleep. Scientists suggest that athletes need more sleep than non-athletes. This is because athletes would recover better when they sleep more, but it has not yet been figured out whether this is actually true. Yet it appears that athletes sleep less time and sleep less well than non-athletes. In this literature review the American authors examined the influence of little sleep on the performance and health of athletes.


People are not able to determine to what extent they have any sleep deprivation. This is because they do not always feel tired after too little sleep. It turns out that alertness is greatly reduced with every hour lack of sleep. By contrast, the feeling of sleepiness decreases a lot with increasing of the sleep deprivation. It is important to understand that shortage of sleep cannot be determined on the basis of drowsiness.

A relatively objective way to easily track how an athlete sleeps is a diary containing the number of hours of sleep and sleep quality. A wristband with a wave sensor can determine the quality and quantity of sleep. In contrast, a wave-sensor which is not attached to the body, such as, for example, your phone under the pillow, is not reliable for keeping track of the sleep.


After one night without sleep endurance performance deteriorates which is determined by the distance run in 30 minutes, repeated sprint performances and the time in a persevering test. However, it has not yet been examined whether this decrease of performance also happens if someone sleeps a few hours less in one night. By contrast, it is shown that a short night reduces the maximum heart rate and maximal oxygen uptake. This makes it likely that athletes perform worse when they sleep a shorter time.

Besides the reduction of the endurance performance the accuracy of tennis and basketball diminishes after a bad night’s sleep with five instead of seven hours sleep. Basketball players miss more shots and in tennis ball the can hit less exactly the right place in the field. Further reduction of power performance may or may not happen when being deprived of a whole night or only a shortage of sleep for a few hours.  The question remains why these differences have been found.


It is obvious that cognitive performance deteriorates when athletes regularly sleep little. It appears that attention, making right decisions and the ability to learn further deteriorates slightly with increasing the sleep deprivation. Moreover, the risk of injuries and illnesses is greater if an athlete regularly sleeps less than seven hours a night. It is also expected that sports performance deteriorates even more when an athlete regularly sleeps less than seven hours. However, this has not been well studied.


Finally, athletes can improve their performance by sleeping more than normally. This also applies when there is initially no question of a lack of sleep. so it is worth while to take more time for sleep.