Athletes and Sleep

Sleep Like a Champion

Athletes face many challenges that make them prime candidates for sleep disorders. Most collegiate and professional athletes are under enormous amounts of pressure to succeed at their particular sports, to be role models for younger generations, to manage endorsement deals, to attend rigorous practice sessions, to stay on track academically and to maintain meaningful family and interpersonal relationships. They juggle these stressors along with demanding game schedules and frequent travel. In the sports arena, every athlete is looking to edge out the competition or the opponent. The philosophy of an athlete is to do whatever it takes to succeed and sleep suffers. However, science and research show that sleep is an area where there simply is no substitute. Optimum sleep equals optimum performance.

Sleep Benefits

What happens when we sleep?

  • Immune system is fortified
  • Nervous system and musculoskeletal system are undergoing repair
  • Heart and blood pressure are regulated
  • Essential hormones are released to aid in metabolism
  • Total body and mental recovery, ranging from strength and alertness to memory motor skills

Adequate quantity and quality of sleep are essential for survival and necessary for optimum function of the brain, heart and muscles. It is important to understand that from a metabolic and cognitive standpoint, sleep is the foundation of physiological recovery and that insufficient sleep reduces the chance of recovery. Metabolically, the body naturally releases hormones during sleep. These hormones are essential for the athlete’s body in aiding in growth of new cells, and the repair of any tissue injury. Maximum utilization of glucose and uptake of proteins are other facets of metabolic recovery enhanced by adequate sleep. Sleep is related to cognitive functions as well, including learning, reaction time, memory, alertness and focus of attention. Sleep deprivation adversely affects one’s abilities to make split second decisions. In an area where milliseconds count, any reduction in reaction time can be devastating.

Sleep loss consequences

Due to their grueling schedules and fast-paced lifestyles, athletes are more likely to be afflicted by certain types of sleep disorders. Athletes often suffer from Circadian Rhythm Sleep disorders. One form, known as Jet Lag, is related to flying or time zone change, and other, Shift Work Disorder, is often seen when sleep schedules alternate between days and nights. Obstructive Sleep Apnea, episodic upper airway obstruction, and Hypersomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, often misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), are also commonly seen in athletes. Falling victim to any one of these sleep disorders will inevitably have an adverse effect on an athlete’s performance. While ongoing studies are now revealing that athletes may even need extra sleep to perform their best, at SleepXcel, we diagnose and treat these disorders to maximize an athlete’s potential.

Athletes are more prone to sleep disorders due to:

  • Travel
  • Shifts in game times and time zones
  • Changing sleep environments
  • Rigorous practice and training
  • Multiple games in a day
  • Sponsorship commitments
  • Press and media obligations
  • Pressure and stress of being a role model and in the spotlight
  • Propensity for a larger body size
  • Increased adrenaline production

Inadequate sleep in athletes results in:

  • Slower reaction time or slower reflexes
  • Decreased hand-eye coordination
  • Use or abuse of medication to stay awake or asleep
  • Reduced visual activity
  • Impaired judgement
  • Lapses in attention
  • Decreased alertness
  • Increased moodiness and aggressive behavior
  • Problems with processing information and short-term memory

Expected Performance Results

  • Improvement in productivity and performance
  • Quicker reaction time
  • Increase in agility
  • Increased in alertness
  • Improvement in post-exercise recovery
  • Fewer injuries and illnesses
  • Better focus and attitude
  • Improvement in muscle memory

SleepXcel Customized Care

Our goal at SleepXcel is to education this elite group of talented athletes as to the importance of proper sleep, to study their sleep patterns and habits for any sign of trouble, and to evaluate and treat any problems in order to optimize their athletic abilities, thereby enhancing their own lives and their value to their teams. Using a customized approach to sleep education, screening, diagnose, treatment and ongoing support, we are dedicated to improving the performance of athletes by optimizing their sleep. SleepXcel offers professional and collegiate athletic programs across the country a sleep fellowship trained and board-certified sleep physician to perform a a full analysis and sleep testing, with comprehensive treatment, state-of-the-art equipment, monitoring and care essential to help athletes and their teams reach and maintain their peak performance levels.

Customized Program Offerings

  • Sleep wellness training and seminars
  • Organization and team sleep screening, comprehensive testing and treatment conducted in facility or remotely
  • Individual athlete screening, comprehensive testing and treatment conducted in facility or remotely as needed
  • 24/7 sleep medicine consultation
  • Personalized evaluation and treatment for individual athletes
  • Elite, customer, in-home or remote location, one-on-one testing
  • An equipped and experienced SleepXcel team to accommodate all sleep care needs
  • Optimize training and practice scheduling for improved performance

About Dr. Barker

In addition to overseeing both the Knoxville and Sevierville locations of the Barker Sleep Institute and her extensive staff, Dr. Barker serves as the CEO and Medical Director for SleepXcel, a division of the Barker Sleep Institute that provides sleep wellness evaluation and treatment to elite amateur, collegiate and professional athletes and teams. SleepXcel delivers the most comprehensive and premier quality sleep wellness management to professional and amateur athletes, giving them optimum health and performance.


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