4 Ways Lack of Sleep Kills Basketball Performance

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Why do basketball players spend hundreds of dollars on the latest basketball shoes just for a bit of extra cushioning and ankle support? And why do they spend hundreds more on protein shakes just for a small reduction in recovery time?

The answer is to get an ‘edge’ over their opponents. Everyones always looking for that little extra that can give them an advantage.

With many players so similar in ability sometimes a small advantage can make a big difference.

The reason I bring this up is because I see players go to great lengths to get a small edge on their opponents, which is great, but I watch many of them skip over one of the most important and simple things they can do to increase their performance.

Want to know what the secret is?

Get enough sleep.

While it’s easy to downplay sleep, multiple clinical studies have shown sleep to be an absolutely essential element of high performance.

Getting enough sleep can speed up your response time, improve your reflexes and raise your physical output.


Proof Lack of Sleep Kills Performance

In a study published in Sleep, Stanford researcher Dr. Bill Dement published a study examining the effect of sleep on basketball. The results astounded both researchers and athletes.

Both reaction times and endurance increased. Three point field goal shooting percentage went up by 9.2%. Sprint speed decreased almost 10%. Foul line shooting percentage increased 9%. The list goes on and on.

Alright, so you now understand that lack of sleep definitely decreases performance… but we haven’t explained exactly how this occurs…


The 4 Main Ways Lack of Sleep Decreases Performance

1. Reaction Time

Numerous studies have shown that a decrease in sleep correlate with a decrease in reaction time.

As stated at the start of the article, basketball can be a game of inches. How many times do players go for steals around the perimeter and just miss deflecting the ball by an inch? The same can be said for big men going for blocks.

Being well rested can give your players quicker reaction times and they will make up that inch to get the block or a steal.

2. Decision Making

All players on the basketball court must be able to read the play and make the right decision to give the team the best opportunity to score.

With hundreds of different options every time a player gets the ball, deciding which option is in the best interest of the team can be quite a task.

A lack of sleep will impair this decision making. And all it takes is a few incorrect decisions by players to turn the game from an easy win into a loss.

3. Recovery

Lack of sleep will also impair your body’s muscle recovery.

During practice and during workouts, muscles get damaged on a microscopic level. The repair of those muscles is what builds new, stronger tissues. If you’re not getting enough sleep, this process gets impaired.

That means you won’t build muscles as quickly. Your muscles may also not be fully recovered come game time. 

4. Reduced Energy

A lack of sleep causes a decrease in glycogen storage.

Glycogen is your body’s primary energy source. It’s your body’s main fuel source during a game. It’s the only source of energy in your body that can truly be broken down quickly.

With a slowed and depleted glycogen system due to not being well rested, you’ll tire much more quickly.


So, What’s the Optimal Amount of Sleep?

There’s no right answer to this question. Dr. Van Cauter found that increased performance could be detected by increasing sleep to as much as 10 hours a night. But not everyone has the luxury or time to get that much sleep. Realistically, the “right” amount of sleep varies from person to person.

The best way to detect your ideal sleep amount is to sleep without an alarm clock for a few days. How long do you sleep naturally? That’s the amount of sleep you should strive for on a regular basis.


I’ll leave you with one important question… are your players getting enough sleep each night?

– Coach Mac


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