What if you could improve your game with something that’s free, comfortable, and requires no sweating!? NBA Champion and Los Angeles Lakers guard LeBron James already knows this one simple secret: “Sleep is the most important thing when it comes to recovery.” he said. So today, we’ll explore the impacts of sleep for basketball. As well as provide a few tips for getting better sleep, even on those nights where you’re on the road before a big game.
Pro hoopers use sleep as a key tool in their toolbox. As a result, they give it as much attention, or more, as any other aspect that goes into building their game performance. “For me, sleep is essential for my health, productivity, and well-being. It is vital – sleep helps restore my body and mind and fuels my body’s ability to concentrate, remember, and learn.” said WNBA Champion and Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker.
“As an athlete, sleep quality is very important because of all the traveling to different time zones for games and the restoration it provides to muscles. I treat sleep with the same importance as training and diet to achieve optimal performance for my body and mind.”
As Candace listed, the potential benefits of sleep for basketball players are many. Let’s get into it.
Many hoopers initially overlook the importance of sleep in their training regimen. “Had I known the significant improvement that sleep can have on your performance when I was in college, I would have definitely focused more on how much and how often I slept, just as I did on what I ate and how I physically trained. I have no doubt that I would have performed better both academically and athletically at Tennessee. I think if I went back and actually calculated my best games in college and throughout my career, there would be a direct correlation with the quality of my sleep in the one, two, and three days before competition. I know for a fact that I slept like a baby the night before we won the NCAA National Championship game,” said former WNBA hooper Michelle Brooke-Marciniak.
The potential benefits of sleep for basketball players include better cognitive function, happier mood, and elevated physical performance. According to research by Stanford University, sleep has a serious impact on a basketball player’s game. A 2011 study suggests that “sleep is an important factor in peak athletic performance,” said first author Cheri Mah, a researcher in the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory.
In the paper, she and colleagues wrote that “athletes may be able to optimize training and competition outcomes by identifying strategies to maximize the benefits of sleep.” The findings suggest, Cheri said, that it’s important for sleep to be prioritized over a long period of time, not just the night before “Game Day.”
The study found that men’s college basketball players who consistently increased their sleep to 10 hours a night were able to run faster in both half-court and full-court sprints. Their shooting also improved by 9% for free throws and 9.2% for three-point shots—which could decide a championship.
Better sleep can also lead to fewer injuries and less sickness, according to NCAA athlete data from sleep and fitness tracker WHOOP.
Here a few ways – from The Champion’s Mind and studies – you can get a solid night’s sleep to prepare for your big game, whether you’re at home or on the road.
What amount of sleep helps you feel good? The key is to get the amount of sleep that your unique body needs. Research suggests a minimum of 8 hours of sleep for most people. Make sleep a consistent part of your pregame preparation.
Nine years into his career in the NBA, Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala met with a sleep therapist to get rid of the bad habits he adopted in college. “I’ve tried to perfect everything that goes on in the game of basketball that can make me a better player,” Andre said. “I’m looking to better in every area. Sleep was one of those areas.” Since adjusting his sleep schedule to get eight hours per night, Andre saw an increase in playing time and points per minute, and a significant decrease in turnovers and fouls made.
Plan to finish all your school, work, or other responsibilities in advance. And don’t go to any late-night social events. Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry stresses that you have to make sacrifices in order to make sure you’re fully alert and focused come game time.
Try to go to bed and get up around the same times each day. Choose a time when the sun is down at night, and up during the morning.
If you’re on the road for your game, it can be challenging sleeping in a new environment. Consider bringing your favorite pillow or blanket, so you have something you’re familiar with beyond your PJs.
Try not to have any caffeine, such as in tea, coffee, energy drinks or soda right before bed, or alcohol. Instead try something like hot tea or warm milk.
Because your body cools down when you lie down and warms up when you get up, if your room is too warm, you might have a hard time falling asleep. Try setting your thermostat to a cool temperature between 60–67°F – like a cave: cool, dark, and quiet.
Research shows that people who bathe or shower one to two hours before bedtime fall asleep faster.
Give yourself some buffer time as you get into bed – about 30 minutes. Just before bedtime is not the time to scout the other team. Instead unwind by unplugging from devices such as TV and your computer. If you’re wired, find the most boring book you can and read until you get sleepy.
Music can significantly improve quality of sleep. So try listening to relaxing, soothing tunes. Buddhist music is created from different Buddhist chants and is used for meditation, so could be something interesting to try.
Try recording your progress against your basketball goals. A study of 41 college students found that journaling resulted in reduced bedtime worry and stress, increased sleep time, and improved sleep quality.
As you approach bedtime turn off or dim any overhead lights near you. Otherwise, your brain will still think it’s daytime. Use a sleep mask and earplugs if you need them to tune out additional noise and light.
Think about what you want to dream about, rather than dwelling on what happened earlier in the day or worrying about what’s on the agenda for tomorrow. Or visualize a place that makes you feel happy and calm.
Pick an idea or keyword that will be helpful or calming for you, and then repeat it over and over again until you fall asleep. This is similar to the old counting sheep trick.
Use a 15-second breathing technique. Breathe in through your nose for a count of five. Hold it for a count of two. Breathe out through your mouth for a count of eight.
Get plenty of exercise and sunlight during the day. If you are having trouble falling asleep, don’t waste your time in bed. After an hour just get out of bed and do the most enjoyable things you can think of until you are exhausted. When you’re on the road this might be something like playing a hand-held video game or watching videos on TikTok, so try to keep your screens dimmed.
“Of course, on the basketball side, you have to fine tune your skills,” Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant told CBS Sports. “But on the other side, you have to fine tune your body. There’s a lot of remedies you can use as a basketball player to get better, but the easiest thing you can do is go to sleep.” So go to sleep!
Up next, learn more about positive self-talk in basketball.