Sleep Strategies for Athletes

4 Sleep Strategies for Athletes

by Josh Heenan | 04/08/15

Here’s what you need to know…

  • Athletes who sleep less than 8 hours a night have 1.7 times greater risk of getting injured.
  • Getting inadequate sleep increases reaction time, decreases accuracy, and sabotages your workouts.
  • To reduce nighttime anxiety, spend a minute planning out the next day. List the top three things you need to get done.
  • Right before you lie down in bed, jot down three things you’re thankful for. Having positive thoughts before bed decreases stress levels.
  • Have a high-fat, pre-bed protein snack to avoid blood sugar crashes that will wake you up.
  • If all else fails, have one of three pre-bed cocktails consisting of healthy sleep aids.

Poor Sleep, Poor Performance

According to the statistics, you’re probably sleep deprived. And even mild sleep deprivation can decrease performance and recovery while increasing the risk of injury.

In fact, athletes who sleep less than 8 hours a night have 1.7 times greater risk of getting injured.

Elite level sports organizations take the subject very seriously. MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and The U.S. Olympic Committee have hired some of the brightest minds in the world to revamp their sleep protocols. It’s clearly important.

Getting a poor night’s sleep is going to increase reaction time on the field, as well as decrease accuracy. And workouts? Yeah, they’re gonna suck.

Conversely, ample amounts of deep sleep can also increase performance, increase lean body mass, decrease cortisol, increase libido, and cut down on sickness.

Good Sleep Basics

First, let’s cover the basics, then we’ll get to the advanced strategies:

  • Any light, especially blue light emitted from electronics, can interrupt quality sleep. Besides shutting off electronics, it’s helpful to use blackout curtains or a sleep mask.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and excess amounts of fluid right before bed.

Related: Fascinating Facts About Sleep

Easy enough, but what if sleep is still suffering? Then it’s time to bring out the big guns.

4 Enhanced Sleep Strategies

Many people have trouble falling asleep due to anxiety. Anxiety is rampant these days, so these specialized sleep strategies tackle it head on.

Strategy 1:Plan Tomorrow in 60 Seconds

Clear your mind by planning out your next day a few hours prior to bed. This can take under a minute. List the top three things you need to get done come hell or high water. This has a remarkable effect on reducing anxiety.

Strategy 2:Write Down 3 Good Things

Right before you go to bed, jot down three things you’re thankful for. Having positive thoughts before bed decreases stress levels even more.

Most athletes and executives who follow this strategy and the one before it often report not even remembering their head hitting the pillow. Powerful stuff. And yes, you can be thankful for low-cut workout tops and snug-fitting yoga pants.

Strategy 3:Squash Low Blood Sugar

One common issue for those who wake up in the middle of the night is low blood sugar. Ditching alcohol can help with this, but having a high-fat, pre-bed snack often fixes the issue. Something as simple as some peanut butter or a protein shake and some Flameout™ will do the trick.

Strategy 4: Supplement Wisely

Sometimes you need an extra kick in the gym, whether it’s loud music or an energy drink. The same goes for sleep. Here are three pre-bed rituals/cocktails that will knock you right out:

Level 1

1 cup chamomile tea
1 scoop glutamine

Level 2

1 cup chamomile tea
1 scoop glutamine
1 serving ZMA®

Level 3

10-20 minute hot bath
1 cup chamomile tea with valerian root
1 scoop glutamine
1 serving ZMA®
1 serving Z-12™


  1. Get 7.5 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Turn off the electronics and darken the room as much as possible.
  2. List three tasks for tomorrow’s to-do list.
  3. Right before bed, list three things you’re thankful for.
  4. If low blood sugar wakes you up, have some peanut butter or a protein shake with some healthy fats.
  5. On nights where you need extra assistance, fix yourself one of three different sleep cocktails.

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